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The mail from Stromovka, Prague, Czechia

In addition to the St. Wenceslas armour, which is probably the best preserved mail of early medieval Europe, another not very well-known and poorly published armour found in Stromovka park comes from Prague. In the following text, we will briefly introduce thie find. The author of the article has long been striving for the opportunity to examine the mail in person, which finally happened on 22nd June 2022.

Stromovka’s position on the map of Europe.


Finding situation and current position

During earthworks in the Royal Game Reserve – Stromovka in 1938, workers came across a hoard, consisting of two identical helmets with aventails, a mail, ring, leather and metal fragments. The size of the finds indicate that the helmets were inserted into each other and the mail was stored inside the smaller helmet. The author of the site Curia Vítkov, who also had the opportunity to personally inspect the find, probably falsely informs that the armour was found in the larger helmet (ie Stromovka I).

The find was reported to the Archaeological Institute in Prague, which handed over the hoard to the National Museum the same year. The complete find belongs to the Department of Older Czech History (Oddělení starších českých dějin). The armour, which has inventory number H2-60755 (formerly dep. no. 1150), is stored in the Terezín depository and has been published a total of four times (Bernart 2010: 68-9; Bravermanová et al. 2019: 275-6, Obr. 63; Hejdová 1964: 51; Šnajdrová 2014: 32, Obr. 4).

The mail from Stromovka. Source: Národní muzeum – Historické muzeum, www.esbirky.cz.


Description

The mail currently has the form of a loaf-shaped, compact, layered, rusty lump about 17–20 cm high and 50 × 47 cm in circumference. The weight of this lump was approximately 7 kg in 2014, now it is below it. The mail is definitely not complete and some parts are missing. As far as we know, no attempt has ever been made to unpack the armour or determine its size. All the visible parts share the same linking style, the classic “four in one“; the mail is a combination of riveted and solid rings. According to Bravermanová, solid rings are welded (Bravermanová et al. 2019: 275-6). During the personal examination, we ruled out the soldering possibility, but the common cutting/punched method is still possible. The cross section of both types of rings is close to a circle or oval. Visible rivets have mushroom heads that are located on the outer side only; on the inside, the decent rivet legs are present. The direction of overlap of the riveted rings is counterclockwise. Copper alloy contrast rings are not visible. The outer size of the riveted rings is 0.86-0.93 cm, over the rivets even 0.91-1 cm. The inner diameter of the rings is 0.57-0.62 cm. The thickness of the wire used is 0.12-0.16 cm, from the side view 0.142-0.161 cm. The outer dimension of solid rings is 0.86-0.89 cm, the inner 0.54-0.58 cm. The material thickness of the solid rings is 0.1-0.14 cm from the front view and 0.132-0.154 cm from the side view. The ring size is visually balanced. Bravermanová (et al. 2019: 292) gives slightly different results: “The outer diameter of the welded ring is 8.3 mm, the inner diameter is 6.2 mm, the cross-section of the wire is 1.25 mm; the outer diameter of the riveted ring is 8.4 mm, the inner diameter is 5.6 mm, the cross-section of the wire is 1.3 mm.

The shape and size of the lump corresponds to the placement in the helmet dome. At the same time, the size and weight suggest that the armour was small in size and was limited mainly to the torso and, theoreticky, upper arms.

The mail from Stromovka. Source: Bravermanová et al. 2019: 276, Obr. 63.

Detail of the rings.

Tiny mail fragments of the hoard may come from aventails. At one of the helmets (Stromovka II), a part of a corroded aventail was found inside the dome. The inner diameters of the rings measure 0.45-0.5 cm with a wire thickness of 0.1 cm (personal interview with Miloš Bernart). A personal inspection made it possible to examine only one ring of the aventail, namely the connecting ring, which was inserted into the holder and threaded onto the wire. This ring was too damaged to allow a diameter to be determined (it roughly corresponds to Bernart’s measurement), but the diameter of the wire was between 0.16-0.2 cm. Bravermanová gives slightly different dimensions: according to her, the rings have an outer diameter of approx. 10.4 cm, an inner 0.5 cm, while the cross-section of the wire is 0.2-0.34 cm (Bravermanová et al. 2019: 294). In any case, the aventail appears to be made of a slightly finer rings than the body mail.

The remains of aventail of Stromovka II helmet. Source: Bernart 2010: Obr. 32.


Dating

Due to the nature of the find, the hoard has long been dated between 7th-12th century in the past (Hejdová 1964: 49-54; Klučina – Marsina – Romaňák 1985: 70). It is no longer possible to support such dating. With the growing body of helmets (Kainov 2019: 189-191, Рис. 71; Macháček et al. 2021: 160, 440, 670; Pieta 2015: 27-30, Obr. 17.1-2; Macků – Pilná 2021) it is shown that the dating of this group narrows to the 3rd third of the 9th century and the 1st half of the 10th century, as noted by Profantová (2016: 134). Helmets can be classified in the late Great Moravian period and After-Great Moravian horizon. The armour thus reflects the Central European protective equipment around the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries.

Equestrian scene from the manuscript Leiden, UBL, Cod. Perizoni F.17, 15v, dated to the first two decades of the 10th century. The armour shown may correspond in size to the find from Stromovka.


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Bibliography

Bernart, Miloš (2010). Raně středověké přílby, zbroje a štíty z Českých zemí, Praha: Univerzita Karlova

Bravermanová, M. – Havlínová, A. – Ledvina, P. – Perlík, D. (2019). Nová zjištění o přilbě a zbroji zv. svatováclavské. In: Archeologie ve středních Čechách 23, 235–310.

Hejdová, Dagmar (1964). Přilba zvaná „svatováclavská“. In: Sborník Národního muzea v Praze, A 18, no. 1–2, 1–106.

Kainov 2019 = Каинов, С. Ю. (2019). Сложение комплекса вооружения Древней Руси X – начала XI в. (по материалам Гнёздовского некрополя и поселения). Диссертация на соискание ученой степени кандидата исторических наук, Том I, Москва. 7

Klučina, P. – Marsina, R. – Romaňák, A. (1985). Vojenské dějiny Československa, 1. díl (do roku 1526), Praha.

Macháček et al. (2021). Břeclav – Pohansko X. Sídelní areál na Severovýchodním předhradí. Archeologické výzkumy v letech 2008-2016, Brno.

Macků, Pavel – Pilná, Veronika (2021). An early-medieval helmet of the Stromovka-Gnezdovo-Bojná type from the collections of the Kozel chateau. In: Archaeologia historica 46, 2, 445-466.

Pieta, Karol (2015). Včasnostredoveké mocenské centrum Bojná – výskumy v rokoch 2007–2013. In: Pieta, K. – Robak, Z. (eds.). Bojná 2 – Nové výsledky výskumov včasnostredovekých hradísk, Nitra, 9–49.

Profantová, Naďa (2016). Chronologie časně slovanského a starohradištního osídlení Čech na příkladu Prahy a jejího zázemí. In: Boháčová, I. – Šmolíková, M. (eds.). Praha archeologická, Praha, 129-146.

Šnajdrová, Evženie (2014). Arma ofensiva et defensiva. Historické zbraně a zbroj ze sbírky Národního muzea, Praha.

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