Greek Marines Prove Mycenaean Armor Was Fit for Combat

Greek Marines Prove Mycenaean Armor Was Fit for Combat


A suit of armor discovered in 1960 at an archaeological site near the Greek village of Dendra is associated with the famous Mycenae Kingdom, a militarily powerful Late Bronze Age realm that holds the honor of being the first great civilization of ancient Greece.

In their initial investigations, researchers concluded that the armor was likely worn for ceremonial purposes only, and not for protection in battle. But a new study just published in the journal Anthropology suggests that the armor may have been used to protect humans from the elements. ProSone We present evidence that overturns this conclusion and shows that the armour was perfectly suitable for combat and would in fact have offered its wearer ample protection.

Artistic photo showing a replica of the Dendra armor used in the study. Photo credits: Andreas Floris and Marija Marković. Reproduction requires permission. (Floris et al. 2024, PLOS ONE/CC-BY 4.0)

Artistic photo showing a replica of the Dendra armor used in the study. Photo credits: Andreas Flouris and Marija Marković. Reproduction requires permission. (Floris et al., 2024; ProSone/CC-BY 4.0)

Practical evaluation by experts

This intriguing new evidence did not come from a laboratory study, but rather during a field simulation by Greek Marines attached to the Greek Army, recreating conditions on a Late Bronze Age, Mycenaean battlefield.

The Marines took part in the mock military exercise wearing replica armor styled after Mycenaean suits that proved to be both comfortable to wear and hard to break through with the types of weapons used during the heyday of the Greek Mycenaean civilization, which dominated mainland Greece from about 1750 to 1050 B.C.

Topography around Troy during the late Late Bronze Age (labels indicate the location of the two military camps and local geographic features). This map was created using the free web application Azgaar's fantasy map generator with permission from Max Haniyeu under a CC BY license. Original copyright 2017-2021. (Flouris et al. 2024, PLOS ONE/CC-BY 4.0)

Topography around Troy during the late Late Bronze Age (labels indicate the location of the two military camps and geographical features of the area). This map was created with permission from Max Haniyeu using Azgaar’s fantasy map generator, a free web application under the CC BY license. Original copyright 2017-2021. (Floris et al., 2024; ProSone/CC-BY 4.0)

Revisiting the Mycenaean battlefield of 1500 BC

The team of Greek archaeologists involved in the new study, led by Dr Andreas Floris, an expert on Mycenaean civilisation at the University of Thessaly, recruited 13 Marine volunteers to take part in the field experiment.

During the mock battle they planned and orchestrated, none of the Marines wore the actual approximately 3,500-year-old historical armor that has been carefully preserved and protected by cultural authorities since its discovery. Instead, these modern warriors all wore replica versions of Dendra armor made from the same materials and manufactured to the same design specifications as the authentic Mycenaean battle suits.

The Greek Marines were issued Bronze Age weapons consistent with those carried by Mycenaean warriors on the battlefields of Ancient Greece in the 2nd millennium BCE. The Marines then underwent a grueling combat simulation lasting a total of 11 hours, taking them through various battlefield scenarios that a typical Mycenaean soldier would have encountered.

Volunteer Marines wearing replica Dendra armor during a demonstration study (right) and artistic photo op (left). Photo credit: Andreas Floris and Marija Markovic. Reproduction requires permission. (Floris et al. 2024, PLOS ONE/CC-BY 4.0)

Volunteer Marines wearing replica Dendra armor during a demonstration study (right) and an artistic photoshoot (left). Photos by Andreas Flouris and Marija Marković. Reproduction with permission. (Floris et al., 2024; ProSone/CC-BY 4.0)

The researchers went to great lengths to recreate the conditions of a real battlefield from the Late Bronze Age for their simulation, and some of the information they used was taken from battle records described in Homer’s epic poem, “De Martínez.” Iliadis set in the Mycenaean period. Homer’s work is thought to have been written in the 7th or 8th century BC, but is considered reliable as it was likely based on an older oral tradition.

Using excerpts from Homer’s writings, as well as additional historical and archaeological data collected from various Mycenaean cultural sites, the researchers staged a fictional battle that recreated as accurately as possible Mycenaean military strategies, activities and operations.

Battlefield simulations demonstrated that the armor offered superior protection against weapons used over 3,000 years ago, regardless of what strikes or offensive tactics were employed. Equally important, Dendra armor did not restrict Marines’ movement, nor did it cause discomfort due to its weight or position on the Marine’s body.

To further verify these intriguing field findings, archaeologists tested the effectiveness of the battle armor in multiple scenarios, using a special software program that allowed them to simulate combat situations over time. These simulations reaffirmed the effectiveness of Mycenaean armor and lent further weight to the argument that the 3,500-year-old Dendra armor was manufactured for military use and was not intended to be worn as ceremonial clothing.

A warrior society protected by armor

The idea that the ancient armor might have been ceremonial was based on its size and design. When it was first examined, many experts concluded that it couldn’t have been too loose or light for the conditions of the battlefield, and therefore must have been made to be worn during public festivals or other celebratory occasions. However, Greek archaeologists who have made new discoveries are confident that they have proven this assertion false.

They write in their PLOS ONE article:

“Although it may seem difficult to use at first glance, [the Dendra armor] It is flexible enough to allow the wearer almost full range of motion as he walks, but also resilient enough to protect the wearer from most impacts. … Furthermore, our testing has demonstrated that the armor is of a weight and construction that allows for extended use in combat, up to 11 hours per day, without any adverse effects to the wearer.”

Archaeologists note that ancient written records suggest the Mycenaeans had constant security concerns, and as a result kept a standing army equipped with weapons, chariots and armor on constant alert, ready to repel invaders. Moreover, Mycenaean society was led by a warrior class that held the majority of the power, so the elaborate yet still-functioning Mycenaean armor was likely made to be worn by one of the society’s most respected military and political leaders.

Because this is an unusual find, it is difficult to say for sure who the costume was actually made for, but we can now say with certainty that a Mycenaean warrior would have been well protected if he wore it in battle against the kingdom’s enemies.

Image above: An artistic photograph showing a replica of the Dendra armour used in the study. Source: Flouris et al., 2024, ProSone/CC-BY 4.0

By Nathan Falde





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