NOTES ON THE NEWSTEAD LORICA 3/15/11
| The Newstead style
dates to the second century AD and is therefore not applicable to the
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
(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
Newstead, but close investigation by Peter Connolly, MC Bishop, and
concludes that the remains are too incomplete to tell if the join was
or hinged. Moreover, large lobed hinges have turned up at a
of second-century sites, and the older backplate from Carlisle had a
More plates with lobed or fleur-de-lis shaped hinges are among the new
Carlisle finds, as well. Clearly, the Newstead style of lorica
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
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
The old reconstruction has small brass tubes on the left plates which
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
Square turn-keys are known on armor from other sites, and would
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
slots could be to prevent the chafing of a strap: riveted to the left
it would pass through the slot and double back to its buckle, also on
left plate. This would allow more adjustment and flexibility than
tubes and pins or turn-keys. But it seems that no suitable
have been found on any contemporary site, making turn-keys the most
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).|
| Click on the thumbnails
my own reconstruction of the Newstead cuirass (in progress). At
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
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
to be secured in someway, since they quickly twist themselves back to
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
plates, with the "paper fastener" lacing loops, is now considered very
unlikely, since only one such fitting has been found.
| At right is my
of the end of one of the Stillfried right-hand girdle plates (I guess
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
around the edges of the slot. That will hold it in place while
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
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
The other two are still straight. All are made from 3/16" brass
one end hammered out flat (annealed 2 or 3 times in the process), and
rest of the length ground down a little thinner.
| Photo by Tom Kolb of the
fragments of the Newstead lorica (apparently the pieces are no longer
in this manner). The right breastplate (in two pieces) and right
backplate are shown side-by-side. The lower piece of the
as shown here has neither hole nor decorative brass strip for hooking
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
in Robinson, but is not likely to fit onto this plate no matter which
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.)