Scaled armours (cuirass), and swords
Jordan Archaeological Museum
Hegira 7th century / AD 13th century
الدرعان: J.6338, J.9881؛ السيفان: J.6339, J.6342
Cuirass: iron; swords: iron and ivory.
Scale armour (cuirass) length 55 cm, width 45cm; sword length 84 cm
Unknown, but probably Syria or Egypt.
Two iron and ivory swords and two protective lamellar cuirasses or scaled armour, made out of overlapping metal rings. Usually worn over a thick linen or leather shirt, the cuirass protected the soldier from direct sword, arrow or dagger hits during battle. Sometimes it was hidden under a surcoat (burda).
There were two main types of cuirasses: the first was wider and more constrictive, although more protective; while the second was a shorter, sleeveless cuirass that allowed more freedom of movement, but which offered less protection. Foot soldiers and archers were known to cut the sleeves off their cuirasses because of the weight and hindrance of movement.
Protective armours have a long history and are therefore difficult to date. In the AH 6th–7th / AD 12th–13th century, the manufacture of scaled armours reached its peak, especially during the Crusader wars. Cuirasses like this one were made of copper, steal and Iron.
The Arabs greatly valued the sword, giving it more than 100 different names. In the Middle Islamic period (AH 6th–10th / AD 12th–15th centuries) the manufacture of swords, shields and armour was active in Damascus, Cairo and Aleppo. Sometimes the name of the maker appears on the sword itself like 'Ali' who made the sword of the Mamluk Sultan Husam al-Din Lajin (r. AH 695–8 / AD 1296–9) and 'Hajji Yusuf' from Aleppo who made the sword of Sultan Qaytbay (r. AH 872–901 / AD 1468–96).
Two iron and ivory swords and two protective lamellar cuirasses, or scaled armour, made out of overlapping metal rings. A cuirass was worn over a thick linen or leather shirt to protect the soldier from direct hits during battle. Sometimes it was hidden under a surcoat (burda).
By comparison with other, similar swords and cuirasses some of which were found in Syria and Egypt. For instance there is a similar cuirass found at Aleppo and now at Damascus National Museum.
The objects were purchased from an antiquities dealer.
Syria and Egypt were the two principal centres for the manufacture of scaled armour and swords in the Mamluk period; it is possible that this cuirass and sword were purchased there.
الهندي.صفاء، تقنية الأسلحة الأيوبية و المملوكية و تطورها: القرن 6-10 ه / 12-16م، رسالة ماجستير، الجامعة الأردنية، ص. 49، شكل 72.
National Museum in Damascus Catalogue, Damascus, 1969, fig. 77.
Stocklein, H. 'Die waffenscharze im Topkapu Sarayi Muzesi zu Istanbule', Ars Islamica, Vol. I, part 2, 1934, pp.200–19, fig. 10
Aida Naghawy "Scaled armours (cuirass), and swords" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;jo;Mus01;25;en
Prepared by: Aida NaghawyAida Naghawy
Aida Naghawy is an archaeologist and the Director of Jordan Archaeological Museum. She studied archaeology at the University of Jordan where she gained her MA. She was affiliated to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities from 1974 as a curator of Jordan Archaeological Museum. In 1981 she became inspector of Jerash antiquities and co-ordinator of the Jerash International Rehabilitation project. She was also head of the archaeological awareness section at the Department of Antiquities. Aida is the author of numerous publications on Islamic coins. She has carried out excavation work in Jerash and is the founder of Jerash Archaeological Museum and the Islamic Museum of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.
Copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: JO 51
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
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