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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Pictoral Evidence for Norman Lamellar or Varangian Lamellar? Reply to topic
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Graham Shearlaw




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 2:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The other issue is that it is stated the ax was the common man's weapon, spear and sword were for the elite. This runs counter to the Saxon Elite troops, the Huscarls, who were axe armed.

The wood axe is a commen mans tool, but a proper fighting axe is built to have no use other than as a weapon.
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William P




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 9:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
The various Tagamatic groups discussed were often essentially foreign mercenaries. I hate to use the term mercenary as it sometimes implies troops that were paid for one campaign, while these various tagmatic groups, like the varangians were essentially paid regulars, though units were often entirely "foreign".

But I would think when these units were initially recruited they were already "fighting men", and had their own equipment.

As the unit matured, old equipment would be replaced, probably byzantine equipment being the most common form of replacement (unless they specifically traded with sources from "home" that replaced their equipment exactly as it was - though this seems doubtful.

And if replacements were recruited from the same "stock" of people, they would also probably come with their own equipment.


William - Interesting article on the Varangians, it may well be that they were less well armoured than is commonly assumed.

There are a few points where I disagree though.

One is they mention the Varangians being used on the wings of the footmen - not sure where they come up with this information, though I have certainly read about battles where they were not positioned on the wings.

And even being positioned upon the wings does not mean they were lightly armoured. Protecting the wings of pikemen does not require the troops to be lightly armoured - it requires the formation to me more flexible or manuverable than pikemen, which is pretty simple to do, just do not give them pikes.

In this Usage they strike me as the Hypaspists that guarded the Macedonian Pike wings - though we know little of how they were equipped, though they are thought of as an elite unit.

The other issue is that it is stated the ax was the common man's weapon, spear and sword were for the elite. This runs counter to the Saxon Elite troops, the Huscarls, who were axe armed.

Perhaos there were different military traditions between the Rus and the Saxons. And possibly as well the guard changed too with the Influx in Saxons in the 11th Century. Who knows - maybe lighter armed/armoured troops that fought on the wings was the function of the Earlier guard made up of Rus, and the Saxon Varangians were more of a frontline infantry unit.

ive also heard these rus on the wings , not neccesarily the varangian guard mind you, were armed and armoured as peltastoi aka lightly armoured javelineer skirmishers
the bg boys of the formation were the menaluetoi or menavlion bearers, there were men armed with big lugged boar spears, chosen from the tough men in armenian and byzantine regiments tese guys were like the triarii in roman maniples or halberdiers in swiss pike formations/ like thee hypaspists. they may or may not have had

also as for civilian axes being war axes...

http://www.worldmuseumofman.org/display.php?item=5
this is apparently a woodwrking axe aka a broadaxe for trimming and bark removal etc. but has many features that make it desirable for being a war axe its light, has a long slicing edge, has a thin blade compared to a felling axe.. the top section could be reforged to be sharp.. etc. the angle of the edge is good for that guillotining effect as you make chops and slices...
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Apr, 2012 6:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan,

Sorry I missed that. There is only one other I can think of that perhaps is from he late 13th that might show this set up as well. I tried to find it at the Bibliothèque nationale de France today but it does not look like the images of this is up online. It is MS. Gr. 112s. Nicolle mentions it and I saw it in an art book on early Gospels a few years ago and have not seen it published elsewhere. It has several men that look like they might have long mail sleeves, collar and skirt with lamellar over it. They look to be the rather long rectangualr types over the ones with a rounded end.

I will keep looking for it but it is the only one I know of. That said there is a Byzantine source, De Cerimoniis, which might include this combination but I am still trying to find it in English as I cannot read Greek. That said once I find the specific mention I have a friend who can read Greek that could translate the section in question. But supposedly it mentions it being an elite custom, perhaps Armenian, which would be interesting as they provided some of the heavy military dynasties founded under Alexius.

That said I am not convinced that the Lamellar was simply poor man armour for those who could not afford mail as many of the Byzantine sources I have seen indicate various grades of Lamellar. As well many At times authors give different names to these. I think Dr. Dawson and others feel these are largely be how much coverage they offer, some being simply a breast and back covering others having shoulder-upper arm, and fauld like parts covering the lower abdomen. Dawson makes the point in one article that in several Greek accounts non-melee troops one example he gives are those using Greek Fire siphons would wear mail not the lamellar. His conclusion is that it may not have been viewed as being as effective because its relagation in many cases to lamellar. I am not so sure but I do think the Byzantine military writers often extol the value of lamellar enough that it might not be as simple as one was always better than the other. I think as well various testing has shown lamellar is very effective in places where mail is less so and vice versa. It might simply be for the type of warfare they were experiencing lamellar was most beneficial.

I can see the value of lamellar over mail in sizing. Just the other day I did a presentation and a gent wanted to try putting on my mail shirt and it would not fit him because I made it fit me and he was a little wider than I was. With a lamellar cuirass that would not have been a major issue. But I do not think this draw back of mail would have declined its use so much alone.

William,

I very much doubt this, at least for many of the Varangians. We have several accounts that indicate them as being well equipped such as Anna Komneni. That said I guess when one has thousands of troops there is room for some to be less well equipped and others well equipped. As well their likely is change over time. The Varangians lasted for hundreds of years.


RPM
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Apr, 2012 11:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan: The (relative) preference for scale/lammell armour in the eastern mediteranean dates back to the days of the roman empire.
Personally, I have the impresion that this might be a result of crafts tradition than anything else.
Both the romans and the later near orient have a fondness for working in plate metal. A lot of this work is cold hammering, cutting and filing, and similar work that does not require a forge. Perfect for small scale craftsmen. You can still see this kind of plate workers in the middle east.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Ahmad Tabari




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Apr, 2012 6:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I will have to disagree. While scale armour may have been predominant among the eastern legions of the Roman empire, this does not necessarily betray an indigenous preference for scale over mail. For most of the middle ages, mail was the armour of choice in the middle east for those who could afford it. Even after the Seljuk arrival in the 11th century, mail remained the preferred armour of non-Turkish soldiers. The Arabs in particular held the long mail hauberk to be their 'traditional' armour.

Even during the Ayyubid period, many Turkish soldiers showed a preference for mail. It was only during the Mamluk period that lamellar came on its own as an armour of choice for Turkish soldiery. But even this trend was reversed by the late 14th century with the introduction of mail and plate armour.

As for the popularity of scale and lamellar being a result of the predominance of small crafts, I would also have to disagree. During the middle ages, most of the majour middle eastern cities had sizable government controlled armouries. They were called zardakhanas I believe. Cities such as Aleppo and Baghdad seem to have been particularly famous for their armouries. My guess is that one of the reasons why lamellar was popular in the middle east is related to the fact that the kingdoms of the region tended to be more centralized than those in Europe and it often fell to the government to supply their troops with armour. And since lamellar was relatively cheap to manufacture, it would have served as a munitions armour of sorts, as Dan has mentioned. And of course the Turkish influence must have increasity the popularity of that armour.
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Michael Ekelmann




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Apr, 2012 10:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lamellar or scale over mail is just one of those things that seems like such a good idea to us that we assume it must have been done. As reconstructions get closer to the actual armours that were worn, people are finding that mail is perfectly good to keep you alive and well. From an SCA perspective, I know lamellar and to a lesser extent scale, are considered easier to build, more protective and less expensive than butted mail. I remember when riveted mail first became widely available and we were all amazed and its lightness and protection vs blunt sticks, especially with a decent gambeson. Still, it is pricey and considered less flashy by some, so lamellar gets the leg up. I can't speak to lamellar in reenactment groups.

I've seen the Rheims cathedral statue up close, the level of detail is amazing and there are other similarly armoured figures in the cathedral. Notre Dame in Paris has several as well. But because the craftsmen and their ideas traveled from cathedral to cathedral, you can't rely on the prevalence of such images to really prove anything other than the existence of a certain stylized image of Biblical bad guys.

“Men prefer to fight with swords, so they can see each other's eyes!" Sean Connery as Mulay Hamid El Raisuli in The Wind and the Lion
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Robert Rootslane




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2012 6:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

who cares about lamellar anyway? Mail looks much better.
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José-Manuel Benito




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2012 8:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robert Rootslane wrote:
who cares about lamellar anyway? Mail looks much better.

Who cares? This is a forum! Isn't it?

For the moment, it's there 4 pages in this thread ... I guess that means that there are enough people interested.

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William P




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2012 10:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

and more impartantly, this is the 21st century the demands of reenactment are different and lamellar provides something maile doesnt, better protection from blunt trauma since being pierced or cut with a a sharp weapon isnt an issue,so maiiles one major benefit is nowdays useless, and its one biggest weakness (without a gambeson in particular) is much more noticable

that and the fact theres something about a corslet of lamellar that looks cool it emulates the full breastplates of later periods and makes a person look much more protected, more... knightly i guess, maile is very plain on its own unless its done artistically with lots of brass links woven in...

maile requires something like a surcoat to go over it to give a colourful effect which i think wernt used much in the times surrounding hastings.

the interest of 4 pages of forums isnt about the cool factor but whether it was used in particular combinations by particular cultures.
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2012 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I very much doubt this, at least for many of the Varangians. We have several accounts that indicate them as being well equipped such as Anna Komneni. That said I guess when one has thousands of troops there is room for some to be less well equipped and others well equipped. As well their likely is change over time. The Varangians lasted for hundreds of years.


One thing I think as well - the article uses the Rus mercenaries for most of it's examples. The Rus were actually mercenaries prior to the founding of the Varangian Guard - and even though apparently espatblished around 988 AD by the 11th century it was predominantly Scandanavian, becoming predominantly English by the late 11th. So the Rus only have a very short history as the predominant force of the guard, but the Rus have a history as mercenaries prior to that.
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 1:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
I very much doubt this, at least for many of the Varangians. We have several accounts that indicate them as being well equipped such as Anna Komneni. That said I guess when one has thousands of troops there is room for some to be less well equipped and others well equipped. As well their likely is change over time. The Varangians lasted for hundreds of years.


One thing I think as well - the article uses the Rus mercenaries for most of it's examples. The Rus were actually mercenaries prior to the founding of the Varangian Guard - and even though apparently espatblished around 988 AD by the 11th century it was predominantly Scandanavian, becoming predominantly English by the late 11th. So the Rus only have a very short history as the predominant force of the guard, but the Rus have a history as mercenaries prior to that.

the same publication has an article suggesting the rus became imperial guardsmen around 1040 with the rise of the new emporer, a man born a commoner originally.
prior to that its said that the rus and other foreigners were stationed as light skirmishers at the wings of infantry blocks. and there were indeed light troops aka lightly armoured skirmishers but its likely the rus would have been used as auxilleries fighting in their native style with spear axe and shield in scandinavian shield walls, although its not noted HOW they were used,

its likely the 6000 men sent by vladimir to basil the 2nd, would mostly have been average to low quality fyrdsmen level troops only, unlike the english the rus would have a lower prosperity and thus less armour among the men so less chance of helmets for examples. its thought that maybe the daneaxe became the guards symbol because of the influx of english varangians who would have been axe equipped huscarls mostly.
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 3:44 am    Post subject: Lamellar         Reply with quote

Going off track a bit but I thought these may be of interest to you William

http://shmm.academia.edu/CharlotteHedenstiern...a_Warriors

http://shmm.academia.edu/CharlotteHedenstiern...s_Garrison

best
Dave

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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 5:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Going off what David posted with these articles, I always thought it was not till the 12th century the Rus became less wealthy as earlier they were some of the wealthier kids on the block.

RPM
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 8:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As made evident by present day examples, the amount of Bling worn is not always proportional with actual wealth. Wink
"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Going off what David posted with these articles, I always thought it was not till the 12th century the Rus became less wealthy as earlier they were some of the wealthier kids on the block.


I think it is a pretty normal pattern of conquerors - they are the elite until they either become far more numerous and/or assimilate more with the population. While the early Rus were not "conquerors" perhaps in the standard line of thinking, they were an elite group of traders with a strong military for their size of population. and it appears they exacted tribute and raided as well.

Quote:
its likely the 6000 men sent by vladimir to basil the 2nd, would mostly have been average to low quality fyrdsmen level troops only, unlike the english the rus would have a lower prosperity and thus less armour among the men so less chance of helmets for examples. its thought that maybe the daneaxe became the guards symbol because of the influx of english varangians who would have been axe equipped huscarls mostly.


Hard to say exactly how the 6000 Rus were equipped. I would not think of them as fyrdsmen - Vladimir's instructions to the Byzantine emperor would indicate they were full time soldiers, not farmers that fought on occasion. I would guess they had a large amount of excess warriors and supporting them was a problem, perhaps warriors who had come to a time of peace and had little to do but be unruly, similar to disbanded Western European mercenaries becoming brigands.

Though this does not mean they were well armoured - But I'd guess at a minimum at least well armed.
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William P




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PostPosted: Wed 02 May, 2012 4:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
Going off what David posted with these articles, I always thought it was not till the 12th century the Rus became less wealthy as earlier they were some of the wealthier kids on the block.


I think it is a pretty normal pattern of conquerors - they are the elite until they either become far more numerous and/or assimilate more with the population. While the early Rus were not "conquerors" perhaps in the standard line of thinking, they were an elite group of traders with a strong military for their size of population. and it appears they exacted tribute and raided as well.

Quote:
its likely the 6000 men sent by vladimir to basil the 2nd, would mostly have been average to low quality fyrdsmen level troops only, unlike the english the rus would have a lower prosperity and thus less armour among the men so less chance of helmets for examples. its thought that maybe the daneaxe became the guards symbol because of the influx of english varangians who would have been axe equipped huscarls mostly.


Hard to say exactly how the 6000 Rus were equipped. I would not think of them as fyrdsmen - Vladimir's instructions to the Byzantine emperor would indicate they were full time soldiers, not farmers that fought on occasion. I would guess they had a large amount of excess warriors and supporting them was a problem, perhaps warriors who had come to a time of peace and had little to do but be unruly, similar to disbanded Western European mercenaries becoming brigands.

Though this does not mean they were well armoured - But I'd guess at a minimum at least well armed.

where did you get the info saying those 6000 were mostly full time troops? did the same source say anything more about the men aka saying whether they were mostly of a certain rank or something?

I've got Klim Zhukoff's comment about a related queston... Here's the translated version:
(note, klim zhukoff was kirpitchnikovs main assistants and often held many of the famous russian helmet finds in his hands. )

Quote:
"Europe - small area with tremendous population density and agricultural indicators simply fantastic. Think of a continent living in Krasnodar Territory. Hence, a larger surplus product per unit area - fewer workers needed to service the military industry and military personnel. The high density of population while providing little leverage to mobilize, as well as better control of the mobilized contingent.
England in general in the state championship - a very small island - like a submarine - not run away from the control and can not hide.

Thus, in the classical [medieval] Europe fought exactly the same professionals that we have in Russia. The only difference is that there these pros were collected relatively easily and quickly, and we have - long and slow.
Further, the system of feudalism in Europe for 1200 years has been an extremely effective system for mobilization.
And we did not have feudalism [in Rus'].

And then, comrade, where are you've seen on the 13th. Russian helmet is not the status of a species? 15 pieces have been found such as helmets, 4 - all in gold, or even worse. Type 2 - all in gold and [encrustation]. Even fucking Rajki and then gilded.
Given that we had not a production of amalgams (gilding), and [they were] imported from Byzantium, gold-plated helmet worth quite unreasonable dollars."


note that it was translated online by a friend of mine from russian (probably using google translate or something) so dont worry if some lines dont make too much sense.
this comment is essentially noting a lack of population density nor the fuedel structure to facilitate the mobilisation the english did have of the fyrd

oh and david thanks very much for the links about birka interestingly it even further should be enough to convince people against the concept of viking lamellar, that all of the equiptment was of eastern origin, (i didnt know of the bow prior to reading this) the stuff about the bow is very interesting

that said i think we should REALLY be moving this discussion about the rus somewhere else. since this has little to do with the normans.
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Wed 02 May, 2012 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
where did you get the info saying those 6000 were mostly full time troops? did the same source say anything more about the men aka saying whether they were mostly of a certain rank or something?


Well William, if you read this portion of the passage it indicates that in the mid tenth century, the Rus were warriors, as well as traders and craftsmen. It also does not indicate farming, which was the primary focus for the great fyrd members.

Quote:
Through self-discipline, considerable weaponry and the Khazars’ former tribute arrangements, the Rus’ could
obtain produce and necessities from the Dnjepr-Slavs in exchange for protection against nomads. Thus, the
Rus’ themselves did not have to practise agriculture.
A few selected bands of Rus’ formed an essentially voluntary
alliance in order to take full advantage of the opportunities of self-enrichment offered by the new
waterways. The alliance was, according to the Primary Chronicle, led by prince Igor (RPC for the years
914–945; Franklin & Shepard 1996:130). The treaties with Byzantium and Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus
give the impression that the Rus were ruled by a collective consisting of several princes or chieftains
who led their retinues (druzhina) on winter journeys to collect tribute.


There are other portions of the article that would point to the 6000 Rus being a group of warriors, not a group of farmers turned part time warriors.

Not seeing it means they all wore mail, just that they were probably first and foremost warriors.
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Alexander Bastoky




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2012 8:50 am    Post subject: Norman Lamellar and Mail?         Reply with quote

On Norman usage of Lamellar :

From "Military Equipment in the Norman South", p.58 of The Normans: Warrior Knights and their Castles by Christopher Gravett & David Nicolle:

The students of the arms and armour of the Norman south are fortunate because three major and almost unique sources of information survive from the early, middle, and late periods. The earliest are carvings over the north door of the church of San Nicola at Bari. Dating from the very early 12th century, they are believed to illustrate an episode of the First Crusade, either the capture of Jerusalem or more probably the fall of Antioch...the eight horsemen who attack the city at first sight look like typical Norman knights, but closer inspection shows considerable differences. Those attacking on the left are dressed in short-sleeved mail hauberks...of those attacking on the right one clearly wears a mail hauberk. The other three wear lamellar or, much less likely, scale armours, one of which is put over a mail hauberk...bearing in mind the already fierce antagonism between the Normans and Byzantium, these lamellar-armoured horsemen are unlikely to represent Byzantine troops...their appearance is therefore likely to indicate to a high degree of lingering Byzantine influence on the arms and armour of...the Norman states in southern Italy.

Now does anyone have photos of these carvings over the north door of the church of San Nicola at Bari?
Thoughts on this passage?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2012 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many Southern Italian troops at the time were Moslem. These soldiers are more likely to be Moors than Normans and wearing Middle Eastern armour, not Western European.
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Alexander Bastoky




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2012 8:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Gravett is a "former Senior Curator at the Royal Armouries, Tower of London" and David Nicolle has "a doctorate from Edinburgh University." They seem to be fairly competent and experienced scholars. It seems counterintuitive that two professional historians, who are respected in the academic community (one of my professors is friends Dr. Nicolle), would put information in their book that is blatantly wrong. What is the evidence that has some convinced that they have completely missed the boat in regards to Norman use of lamellar or lack thereof? Maybe I have too much faith in these scholars, but so far I am not satisfied with the argument contesting their statement.
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