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Body armor, also known as body armour, personal armor/armour, or a suit/coat of armour, is protective clothing designed to absorb or deflect physical attacks. Historically used to protect military personnel, today it is also used by various types of police (riot police in particular), private security guards or bodyguards, and occasionally ordinary civilians.[1] Today there are two main types: regular non-plated body armor for moderate to substantial protection, and hard-plate reinforced body armor for maximum protection, such as used by combat soldiers.

History

Greek Mycenaean armor, c. 1400 BC
Bronze lamellae, Vietnam, 300 BC – 100 BC

Many factors have affected the development of personal armor throughout human history. Significant factors in the development of armor include the economic and technological necessities of armor production. For instance full plate armor first appeared in Medieval Europe when water-powered trip hammers made the formation of plates faster and cheaper.[citation needed] At times the development of armor has run parallel to the development of increasingly effective weaponry on the battlefield, with armorers seeking to create better protection without sacrificing mobility.

Ancient

The first record of body armor in history was found on the Stele of Vultures in ancient Sumer in today's south Iraq.[2][3] The oldest known Western armor is the Dendra panoply, dating from the Mycenaean Era around 1400 BC. Mail, also referred to as chainmail, is made of interlocking iron rings, which may be riveted or welded shut. It is believed to have been invented by Celtic people in Europe about 500 BC.[citation needed] Most cultures who used mail used the Celtic word byrnne or a variant, suggesting the Celts as the originators.[4][5][6] The Romans widely adopted mail as the lorica hamata, although they also made use of lorica segmentata and lorica squamata. While no non-metallic armor is known to have survived, it was likely to have been commonplace due to its lower cost.

The use of iron plate armor on the Korean peninsula was developed during the plate armor first appeared in Medieval Europe when water-powered trip hammers made the formation of plates faster and cheaper.[citation needed] At times the development of armor has run parallel to the development of increasingly effective weaponry on the battlefield, with armorers seeking to create better protection without sacrificing mobility.

Ancient

The first record of body armor in history was found on the Stele of Vultures in ancient Sumer in today's south Iraq.[2][3] The oldest known Western armor is the Dendra panoply, dating from the Mycenaean Era around 1400 BC. Mail, also referred to as chainmail, is made of interlocking iron rings, which may be riveted or welded shut. It is believed to have been invented by Celtic people in Europe about 500 BC.[citation needed] Most cultures who used mail used the Celtic word byrnne or a variant, suggesting the Celts as the originators.[4][5][6] The Romans widely adopted mail as the lorica hamata, although they also made use of lorica segmentata and lorica squamata. While no non-metallic armor is known to have survived, it was likely to have been commonplace due to its lower cost.

The use of iron plate armor on the Korean peninsula was developed during the Gaya Confederacy of 42 CE - 562 CE. The iron was mined and refined in the area surrounding Gimhae (Gyeongsangnam Provence, South Korea). Using both vertical and triangular plate design, the plate armor sets consisted of 27 or more individual 1-2mm thick curved plates, which were secured together by nail or hinge. The recovered sets include accessories such as iron arm guards, neck guards, leg guards, and horse armor/bits. The use of these armor types disappeared from use on the Korean Peninsula after the fall of the Gaya Confederacy to the Silla Dynasty, during the three kingdoms era Three Kingdoms of Korea in 562 CE.[7]

Eastern armor has a long history, beginning in Ancient China. In East Asian history laminated armor such as lamellar, and styles similar to the coat of plates, and brigandine were commonly used. Later cuirasses and plates were also used. In pre-Qin dynasty times, leather armor was made out of rhinoceros. Chinese influence in Japan would result in the Japanese adopting Chinese styles, their samurai armor being a result of this influence.[citation needed]

Middle Ages

In European history, well-known armor types include the mail hauberk of the early medieval age, and the full steel plate harness worn by later Medieval and Renaissance knights, and a few key components (breast and back plates) by heavy cavalry in several European countries until the first year of World War I (1914–15).

Plate