Polyanitza wearing Full Length Hauberk
The Woman Warrior common in Russian legend. Though the Polyane were a Slavic tribe, the legends often connect these women in some way to the Steppes cultures, and commentators tend to believe that the prototype for these women were from the Turkic tribes. Here, she wears a Turkic-style overlapping Hauberk and carries a Saber.
Warrior Women

The Silk Road Designs Armoury

Contact the Armoury at normlaw@yahoo.com

Return to Introduction Page . . . View Other Pages
Copyright and Authoring information


Maile Cap
Maile Cap (Coif)
The "Normal International" pattern of 4 rings in 1 is used with "expansion rings" which shift the pattern to curve the fabric.
Made by author (normlaw@yahoo.com). Rings are butted, 14 guage, galvanised steel with a 3/8" internal diameter.
From ancient warriors, marching out to conquer the world, to today's divers, attempting to conquer the oceans, the Hauberk, or Coat of Maile, in it's many variations has been, probably the most commonly used type of body armour.

The word Maile comes from the old French for chain. The Japanese Kuzari Do is similarly "Chain Armour". As the name implies, this armour is constructed by the linking of metal rings.
Historically, those rings have ranged from iron (used by the Greeks) to titanium steel (used by modern divers for shark proof suits) as well as the copper alloys (often impossible to distinguish as the languages of the texts used the same word for copper, bronze, brass, and related metals).
Weave Patterns
The most common pattern for connecting these rings (the International pattern) has each ring connected to four other rings to form a mesh. Photographs at this page illustrate this International pattern (the cap also has "expansion rings", rings purposely out of pattern, which curve the fabric to create a seamless cap).
An uncommon version of this pattern is sometimes called "Doubled Maile". Doubled maile was found in one ancient Celtic grave and there are several shirts from the late Middle Ages in the Kremlin Armoury in Russia. These are the only examples of this armour that I am aware of.
In the "doubled" pattern, each ring is connected to six rings rather than four. This forms a far tighter fabric then the normal four-in-one design. Doubled Maile is therefore a more protective defense but at the same time far heavier and less flexible then the normal four-in-one fabric.
Mounted Avar warrior leading captive, both in Hauberks tied below the knee
Steppes Warrior with prisoner
Detailed reconstruction based on an 8th century Ewer found in Rumania (Khazar, Avar, or Magyar).
The warrior on horseback wears a hauberk with long sleeves and skirting, with the skirting tied below the knees. He also wears arm defenses and leg defenses of Splints likely riveted to backing leathers (the rivets are visible in the original).
The captive may be wearing the same type of hauberk (as I have chosen to represent) or a quilted garment. For that matter, researchers have suggested that the "captive" may actually be a man's skin stuffed as a mannequin -- a particularly gruesome trophy that the Steppes warriors made of those they especially despised (as the Khazars did to the king of Tbilisi in the seventh century).
The photograph of two segments of maile at this page, shows the difference between "Four-in-One" Maile and "Doubled" (Six-in-One) Maile. Both segments contain the same number of horizontal rows, with the same number of rings on the four "outer" (or wider) horizontal rows.
The upper segment is linked four rings into one. The spacing of the segment is the natural size of the piece. However, this piece can be streched wider or closed tighter (to eliminate much of the space). The lower segment is linked six rings into one. The spacing of the segment is its natural spacing, but this segment can not be either stretched wider (to allow more space) or pushed tighter than it already is.
There are a couple of other patterns, which are found only in Japanese armour (though the Japanese also used the International four-in-one pattern). These Japanese patterns are a much simpler and, in my opinion, a less effective design where rings are linked alternating a central one linked to four (or sometimes six) with "linking rings" which connect the central links to each other (being themselves only linked to two). To compensate for this weaker position, the linking rings are often made from two, or even three twists of wire.

Segments of Maile
Segments of Maile
Upper segment - "Normal International" - 4 rings connected to 1.
Lower segment - "Doubled" -- 6 rings connected to 1.
Both use rings of the same measurements, the same number of rows, and the "outer rows" have the same number of rings.
Made by author (normlaw@yahoo.com). Rings are butted, 14 guage, galvanised steel with a 3/8" internal diameter.
Ring Types
The rings have historically been of three primary types. These are the "riveted", "butted", and "solid" rings. The photographed Maile all uses butted rings.
As the name implies, solid rings are rings which seem to be of one piece, with no visible join. These are often made like washers, by being punched from a sheet of metal (they are therefore of flat, rectangular cross section). Sometimes they are made from wire (as the other rings) which is welded to seal the joint. Armours which contain these, contain them in alternating rows with riveted or butted rings (since solid rings would be impossible to link to each other, the non solid rings are used to link them).
The other two types of ring are made from a segment of wire bent into a circle with both ends meeting. A butted ring is one which simply relies on the strength of the metal for keeping it's shape (the ends are simply "butted" - or touching each other). In a riveted ring the ends are overlapped and flattened. A hole is then made in the flattened ends and a rivet is inserted, joining the two ends together.
Needless to say, the sturdiest type of Hauberk is one of alternating rows of solid and riveted links. Similarly, the riveted is a stronger link than the butted.

Origins and History
The earliest examples of this armour, of which I am certain, are to be found in Scythian graves of the fifth century BCE. They are then found in third century BCE Celtic finds. Nevertheless, for a reason not known to me, the Scythians are generally dismissed as originators of this armor and the Celts are credited with its creation.
About the same time as the Celtic finds, there is evidence of Greek use of this armour. At this time, it seems to have been a waist length (or slightly longer) sleeveless shirt with an additional section of Maile over the shoulders (to mimic the style of the linen cuirass).
Georgian warrior in Maile vest with Islamic warrior in three-quarter length Hauberk
Georgian and Turk warriors
The Georgian (left) wears armour that probably originated with early medieval proto-Roman styles and remained quite common for Eastern Christians into the 15th century.
The Turk (right) wears leg armour that started to come into use in the 14th or 15th century.
There are also some indications of earlier use, possibly by Sarmatians and Phoenicians. Finally, Sir Richard Burton reports of the depiction of a cap of Maile in an image of a Pharaoh.
The latest military use of Maile was during World War I, as an aventail on tanker's helmets (though, I am told, some eccentric Englishmen wore their ancestors' Coats of Maile into combat).
After the Greeks, the use of Maile was picked up by the Romans and, at approximately the same time, their enemies in England and Europe. It is impossible to trace exactly when Maile came to be used throughout the Central Asian World. As mentioned above, it was already in use during the Roman era and, barring a real reason to discount Scythian origins, Central Asia may, in fact be the source of the armour.
By the 12th or 13th century the Hauberk was adopted in Korea and (probably as a legacy of the Mongol invasions) it came into general use in Japan by the end of the 14th, beginning of the 15th century.
In China, Maile was used in the North, generally by Cavalry, and generally in conjunction with Scale or Lamellar armour.

Style and Fashion
Because of its wide geographical and temporal dispersion, the Hauberk has differed in style almost as much as has non-military clothing.
As mentioned above, the classical Greeks used a sleeveless, waist length garment with a separate layer over the shoulders. The Romans originally copied this style but, subsequently, modified and later eliminated the cape and added short sleeves.
Elsewhere, Hauberks have varied in length from waist length to garments which reached to the floor, or even covered the feet (these were generally split below the waist or hip). Those Hauberks which were longer than knee length were generally tied to the leg in several places, creating a one-piece coat and pants, or "jumpsuit" effect. Many examples of these from India survive, often with straps still intact or their remains obvious. Sleeve length has similarly varied, from sleeveless exemplars to half or full length sleeves, to sleeves that cover the hand (often ending in mittens).
Russian wearing Panzir Kolchuzhnik
Pantzir Kolchuzhnik
The arm defenses shown are Zarukavi. The hands are covered by Rukavitsi (mittens) which, when in military use, were commonly padded.
In Europe, the Coat of Maile was thus often distinguished by degree of coverage. The smaller types (i.e.: waist length or sleeveless) were sometimes called Haubergeon while the more complete types (i.e.: knee length, full sleeve) were called Hauberk. The distinction, however was very imprecise, while the word Hauberk was also used as the general term.

Generally, the Hauberk either opened at the front (like a modern coat) and was fastened by straps or ties, or it was put on over the head (generally having a "keyhole" opening with a couple of fasteners). In Central Asia another type was also used, attributed to the Turks as originators. This "Turkish" Hauberk, like many Turkish and Persian garments, overlapped in the front and fastened at the wearer's side.
Many Eastern Hauberks have a standing colar which offers some protection for the neck. This colar is often stiffened by leather thongs which are inserted into the mail. I am inclined to agree with Ffoulkes in his belief that leather was similarly used in Europe. On some coats the colar hangs down in two long points, reminisent of that on modern shirts.
Arab wearing layered Hauberks of varied lengths
North African Warrior
An example of multiple, layered Hauberks.
At the chest, this warrior has the extra protection of a mirror plate. Most likely, the whole should have been covered by a cloth garment to protect from the sun.
The warrior carries the straight sword with large pommel, which was used the Middle East prior to the adoption of the Central Asian Sabre, and a simple flat shield with single solid center grip, later replaced by concave shields with flexible doubled center grips.

In Russia the Hauberk was invariably of knee length, split for riding and put on over the head. Sleeves were either full or half length. The Hauberk was worn alone or in conjunction with other types of armour.
The Russians distinguished three types of Maile. The "Kolchuga", which may simply be translated as Maile, is of a loose weave, using large rings. The Hauberk of tight weave, using smaller and thicker rings is called "Panzir Kolchuzhnik", which may be translated as Armour of Maile. The Panzir Kolchuzhnik was often reinforced with small disks of bronze or steel and had decorative hook-fasteners of the same metal (see illustration). Both the Kolchuga and the Panzir Kolchuzhnik were made of round rings. The Russians also used a Hauberk of flat rings which was distinguished by the name "Baidana".

The Hauberk lent itself easily to layering. Thus, the Poem "El Cid" tells of a warrior being saved from death when a spear pierced two of the three Coats of Maile which he wore, but was stopped by the third coat. As with civilian garments, the Hauberks were layered by wearing a shorter coat over a longer one and a coat with short sleeves over one with long ones.

Contact the Armoury at normlaw@yahoo.com

Introduction Page Navigation Visit the Armoury Book Recomendations
Cloth Armour Maile Mirror and Brassier Armour Chahar-Ai-Ne
Disc Armour Scale and Lamellar Armour of Bands Brigandine
Maile and Plates European style Armour Arm Defenses Leg Defenses
Helmets [Introduction] [Rigid Helmet Domes]
[Soft Helmets] [Face Protection] [Back'n'Side of the head]
Photograph of a Full Armour Photographs of a Leg Armour Archery Measuring for Armour
Table of Armour Types Web Rings Jewish Warriors Warrior Women

Go to Next Page


Articles and Illustrations by Norman J. Finkelshteyn.
Web Site designed and implemented by Silk Road Designs.
Contact us at normlaw@yahoo.com
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.