NOTES ON THE NEWSTEAD LORICA                       3/15/11

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       The Newstead style lorica segmentata dates to the second century AD and is therefore not applicable to the usual time-frame portrayed by Legio XX, but these notes will be important to anyone interested in this form of armor.

       The lorica pieces from Newstead are very fragmentary and incomplete.  The "standard" reconstruction by H. Russell Robinson (which Museum Replicas attempts to reproduce) can no longer be considered accurate.  This is not to be needlessly knocking Robinson, he did a good job with the little bits he had, but in the 26 years since his book was published a large number of significant finds have changed all previous ideas.

       At right is Arick Greenberg of Legio VI Victrix, California, in his new Newstead lorica.  Nice work!  (Thanks to Dave Michaels for the photo.)  There are details in the Legio VI Victrix Equipment section, and also here: http://florentius.com/segmentata.htm

       The surviving pieces from Newstead include most of the right backplate, two large fragments of the right breastplate, parts of the shoulder guards, and what may or may not be the ends of a couple girdle plates.  The reconstructed double-width bottom girdle plate comes from a find of similar date from Zugmantel, Germany, which also produced a fragmentary breastplate.  A third-century backplate was found at Carlisle in the early 1990s (ARMA, Newsletter of the Roman Military Equipment Conference, v.5#2, 1993), and in January and February of 2001 a major excavation at Carlisle uncovered an enormous amount of material, which should answer all our questions when it is finally published.  For MC Bishop's tentative reconstruction of this cuirass, see http://www.mcbishop.co.uk/jrmes/j1001.htm.  More information is in Volume 10 of JRMES.  The latest find is from Stillfried, Austria, nearly complete left and right girdle sections.

       Robinson's core idea, which is still being repeated today, is that the Newstead lorica was a "much simplified and strengthened" improvement over the previous hinged Corbridge style.  But finds at Carlisle and other sites make it clear that the Newstead lorica was anything but simplified.  Large lobed hinges were indeed still in use.  The hinged strap and buckle fittings seem to be gone, but there are thin brass plates, often with decorated edges, around various slots and holes all over the armor, as well as brass edgings on some parts.

       HINGES--No hinges were found at Newstead, but close investigation by Peter Connolly, MC Bishop, and others concludes that the remains are too incomplete to tell if the join was riveted or hinged.  Moreover, large lobed hinges have turned up at a number of second-century sites, and the older backplate from Carlisle had a hinge.  More plates with lobed or fleur-de-lis shaped hinges are among the new Carlisle finds, as well.  Clearly, the Newstead style of lorica still used hinges to connect the collar section plates.  Note that these hinges are much larger and more ostentatious than the Corbridge styles!
       From a brief examination of some of the new Carlisle finds, Bishop believes the upper shoulder guard was hinged in three parts like the Corbridge types, including a pentagonal center plate as on Corbridge B.
       The initial interpretation of the first Carlisle backplate was that it was originally riveted to the mid-collar plate (following Robinson), and later retrofitted with a hinge.  However, the center of the hinge is torn out, so those two holes are exposed--it is safe to conclude that the hinge was the original fitting, and when it tore the joint was repaired with four rivets.  On the Corbridge collar sections a number of hinges have broken and the joints similarly riveted (a feature faithfully copied on my own disintegrating armor!).

       COLLAR-TO-GIRDLE CONNECTION--Generally interpreted as hooks and holes as on the Corbridge B lorica, 4 in back and 2 in front.  Two brass strips, each with a hole at the bottom, are riveted to the backplate, but it is not clear if there was a matching hole or strip on the breastplate.  The system is confirmed by the Stillfried girdle plates, however, which have 2 hooks in back and one in front, on each side.  However, instead of being riveted to the outside of the plate, as on Corbridge B, they are riveted inside by a single rivet and the hook passes through a hole in the plate!

       FRONT AND BACK CLOSURES--The backplate has 2 vertical slots at the inner edge, each with a brass plate riveted over it, with the brass wrapped around the edges of the slot.  The breastplate has one identical fitting at the center of the inner edge.  The old reconstruction has small brass tubes on the left plates which pass through the slots and are secured by pins.  A damaged fitting on a small iron fragment was interpreted as one of these tubes, but it could also be a strap or buckle hinge plate, or something else entirely.  Square turn-keys are known on armor from other sites, and would function with the slots here; the Zugmantel breastplate has a rectangular brass plate with a hole punched through it, possibly an anchor point for such a turn-key.  Poulter suggested that the careful brass edging on the slots could be to prevent the chafing of a strap: riveted to the left plate, it would pass through the slot and double back to its buckle, also on the left plate.  This would allow more adjustment and flexibility than tubes and pins or turn-keys.  But it seems that no suitable buckles have been found on any contemporary site, making turn-keys the most likely candidate at the moment.
       Stillfried's most exciting feature, however, is the girdle plate fastenings.  The left-hand plates (all but the bottom-most) have cast loops at each end, mounted horizontally.  These loops are known from a number of other sites, and several are actually shown in Robinson  as well as in later books (right).
But rather than being used in concert with matching loops on the other side, the right-hand plates all have a slot at each end (except the bottom two plates), each one fitted with a small brass plate identical to those on the original Newstead breast- and backplates!  (See reconstruction below.)  Apparently the right side firmly overlaps the left, and the loops pass through the slots, where they must have been secured with something like the split ring which Bishop shows in his reconstruction.
       Click on the thumbnails to see my own reconstruction of the Newstead cuirass (in progress).  At left all 6 collar plates are laid out flat, showing the connection fittings (34 K).  At right are the front and back views (37 and 35 K), with the topmost girdle plate pair hooked on.   There is visibly more space for the neck than any Corbridge armor!  The two halves must be completely unhooked in order to put them on, so one definitely needs help from a comilitio to get the back fastened.  The turnkeys do need to be secured in someway, since they quickly twist themselves back to vertical and pop out of their slots.

       The hinges are copied from the Carlisle backplate shown in Caruana's article.   The shoulder guards may have to wait until more about the Carlisle finds is published.  The "smoky" pattern on the left-side collar plates was apparently caused when I heat-darkened the insides and failed to clean the outside sufficiently.  The right-side plates, made a year or more earlier, are just painted black inside.

       Robinson's reconstruction had 6 pairs of girdle plates, the lowest pair being of double width, based on finds from Zugmantel.  Bishop's "version 1.01" patterns also show 6 pairs of plates, though they gradually widen from 2" at the top to 4" at the bottom.  The Stillfried cuirass was a mismatched set, 7 plates on the right and 8 on the left (reportedly about 2-3/4" in width (7 cm) but that seems a little wide for that number of plates).  They also had brass edgings along the lower edge of the bottom plates, and on the top edge of one of the uppermost plates, too.

       The old reconstruction of the girdle plates, with the "paper fastener" lacing loops, is now considered very unlikely, since only one such fitting has been found.
       At right is my reconstruction of the end of one of the Stillfried right-hand girdle plates (I guess this is the back end), with its brass-bordered slot.  Above is a second slot border plate--the three chisel cuts form the tabs which will be folded around the edges of the slot.  That will hold it in place while the holes are punched and the rivets installed.

       Next is one of the girdle plate loops from the left side, usually cast brass but in this case cut from thick sheet (c. 2 mm).  Top right is one of the turnkeys used as collar plate fasteners.

       Below are 4 of the 6 hooks which connect girdle section to collar plates.  Two are half-bent, ready to be riveted in place, after which they will be bent the rest of the way.  The other two are still straight.  All are made from 3/16" brass rod, one end hammered out flat (annealed 2 or 3 times in the process), and the rest of the length ground down a little thinner.

       Photo by Tom Kolb of the surviving fragments of the Newstead lorica (apparently the pieces are no longer displayed in this manner).  The right breastplate (in two pieces) and right backplate are shown side-by-side.  The lower piece of the breastplate as shown here has neither hole nor decorative brass strip for hooking to the girdle section.  However, the lower piece shown in Robinson is narrower and clearly shows the bottom of the slot and its brass border, so the lower piece in this photo was never part of the upper piece--it may be a section of the left breastplate.  A decorative strip for the girdle plate hook connection could fit on the missing part of the plate in Robinson, but is not likely to fit onto this plate no matter which side it's from. 

       The placement of the "shoulder guard" fragments may be guesswork--that on the left has a large brass plate with a slot in the middle, similar to a piece in volume 5 of JRMES that the Stillfried finds now indicate is a girdle plate.  Below the breast and backplates are some other fragments, possibly from girdle plates but pehaps from shoulder guards or even a manica (armguard).

       Below the cuirass parts are some apron fittings (I don't know what the large discs are!), and some buckles and belt plates, presumably all from the second century AD.  At lower right are the greenish fragments of a laminated brass guard, which Robinson called a thigh guard but Bishop and Coulston identify as an armguard (see the page on the Manica).

       (Also see the page on the earlier Kalkriese lorica.)

       Imperium Ancient Armory makes an excellent Newstead lorica, http://www.imperiumancientarmory.com/Body%20Armor/Body%20Armor-Roman/Newstead/Newstead%20Lorica.htm 

Custom armorers such as Matt Lukes will also make good ones (see Suppliers page). 

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