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Strelets with captured Mongol
Russian Streletz with Tatar-Mongol prisoner
Examples of "Kaftan", Central-Asian style military coats.

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Cloth Armour and Armour Padding

As was armour in the West, Eastern armour was worn over a padded garment. This garment, just as in the West, was generally a heavier version of the civilian garment which was in fashion at the time. In the East, this garment tended to be the Kaftan, though there were some exceptions.
"Kaftan" is a general term used to refer to the over-garment, or coat, common to Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The garment is generally of knee length, or slightly longer, and has sleeves of half length or longer.
Often, the volume of skirting or the length of sleeves were used as indicators of social status. Thus, in late medieval Russia the sleeves of the Civilian Kaftan reached an inordinate length. There, to use the hand for any purpose, the lower arm passed through a slit at mid-length rather than through the bottom of the sleeve.
The Kaftan appears in the illustrations of the Dura Europos Synagogue (done in the second century CE) in Asia Minor. Before that, Alexandrian era images of Persian horsemen show something that is probably a similar garment. The Kaftan continued in general use into the twentieth century and is still worn by traditional people in Central Asia.
The Military Kaftan was made of thick wool, quilted cloth or leather, or of sheep skin with the fur on the inside. In addition to its use as padding, the Kaftan was often used on its own as a light armour.

Peti Peti
In India, the quilted Kaftan, there called a Kubcha, was distinguished from two other cloth armours -- the Peti and the Chihal'Ta Hazar Masha (which translates as Coat of a Thousand Nails).
Peti is a simple wide "girdle" of thick leather or heavily padded cloth (some being over an inch thick) which hangs from the shoulders and fastens in the front with toggles or a thong. Often, there is an extension at the back.
Chihal'Ta Hazar Masha
Chihal'Ta Hazar Masha
An alternate style - reinforced with Discs
Chihal'Ta Hazar Masha consists of a cloth or leather cuirass with leaf-shaped cloth pauldrons and a four-sectioned skirting. The skirting is generally in one piece with the cuirass and the pauldrons are often in one piece. The name refers to the decoration most commonly found on this armour, which consists of rivets arranged in a pattern of scales. The pattern led to H. Russell Robinson suggesting that the armour is descended from Scale armour (with the scales removed). It may also descend from Brigandine -- being an idealized false Brigandine.
This armour is worn either as a front and back cuirass or as a coat -- fastening in front or on the side. One style of this coat, illustrated here, is clasped only at the waist and worn open at the front. The opening is filled with a bib of a similar fabric and decoration as the rest of the coat.
Mongol Nobleman wearing an 'Eastern Jack' Mongol "Jack of Plates"
In addition to the padding and rivets, many Chihal'Ta Hazar Masha were also reinforced with plates. These were of the pattern of Chahar-Ai-Ne or Disc Armour.

Armoured (or reinforced) Kaftans were also in use. These were constructed in several ways. The Brigandine, described elsewhere, may be considered one instance of such a reinforced coat. Another type was something called a Kazarghand, which is a coat of Maile sewn into the cloth garment. Finally, there was a coat of similar construction to the English "Jack of Plates".
This "Eastern Jack" was constructed of small hexagonal plates attached between two layers of fabric. The plates did not overlap, the two layers of fabric were sewn together around them, forming individual pockets. The result gave the appearance of a quilted beehive pattern. While this armour was common to all the areas once under Mongolian dominion, the only surviving examples come from Japan as Kiko (so-called, "Japanese Brigandine").


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Articles and Illustrations by Norman J. Finkelshteyn.
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Copyright Norman J. Finkelshteyn 1997 -- All articles and illustrations at this web site are Copyright protected material. Use of these articles and illustrations is subject to appropriate restrictions under United States, International, and local Law.

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