Posts Tagged With: armor

Origin of ‘Spanish Armor,’ Said to Have Been Found in Texas Desert, Stumps Scientists…..

It seems to have passed through more hands than The Maltese Falcon. And it’s proving to be nearly as mysterious.

Two pieces of iron armor — reportedly first found in the desert of West Texas about 150 years ago — have recently been analyzed by scientists in Nebraska, where the artifacts have been sitting for decades in museum storage.

Archaeologists have been able to determine that some of the armor’s components are at least 200 years old, but details about who made it, who wore it, and where exactly it came from remain a total mystery.

“I don’t know where this thing came from,” said Dr. Peter Bleed, a University of Nebraska archaeologist who led the study.

“I hope researchers will look for more evidence about this.”

Bleed supervised two anthropology students at the University of Nebraska — Lindsay Long and Jessica Long, who are now graduate students at other institutions — in their investigation of the armor as a research project.

The Nebraska History Museum acquired the armor in 1990, consisting of a black helmet and a neck covering called a gorget, made of a cotton twill backing covered with small iron scales.

The gorget of the Bourke armor consists of cotton twill backing covered in iron scales. The wooden crosspiece was added by Capt. Bourke so he could mount it on the wall as a conversation piece. (Photo courtesy Bleed et al., used with permission)

But despite its storied past, the artifact — and the lore that came with it — had never been thoroughly studied.

“I thought the armor itself deserved to be documented, in part because it had been in a private collection since the 1890s,” Bleed said.

The few records of the armor that exist came from U.S. cavalry officer and anthropologist Capt. John Gregory Bourke, who was given the gorget, helmet, and a breast- and backplate in 1870, from an army doctor who claimed to have found them “enclosing the bones of a man in the arid country between the waters of the Rio Grande and the Pecos.”

Bourke took the armor with him from post to post throughout the West during his career, losing the breast and backplates to thieves in Arizona along the way.

But before his death in 1896, Bourke gave the helmet and gorget to a judge’s wife in Nebraska, and by the early 20th century, it was in the possession of an Omaha attorney, in whose family it remained until it was donated to a museum in 1961, and then to the state historical society.

The Bourke armor helmet (Courtesy Bleed et al., used with permission)

One of the first questions that Bleed and the Longs wanted to tackle was Bourke’s assertion, made in his journals, that the armor belonged to “a Spanish foot-soldier of the sixteenth century.”

Historical records describe the equipment used by Spanish soldiers at that time, but the team found that it included little armor, the Spanish instead having used mostly padded leather or shirts of chain mail.

“It just is not very much like armor known to have been used by colonial Spanish forces,” Bleed said of Bourke’s armor of iron scales.

“The Spanish apparently had some [chain] mail, but the idea of taking a fabric and attaching little fish scales to it, this is not something they did.”

However, the possibility that Bourke’s armor was not Spanish didn’t mean that it may not still be very old.

Radiocarbon dating of the cotton backing of the gorget showed that the fabric dated to between 1660 and 1950 — a broad range, but one that suggests that the armor could have been nearly 200 years old when Bourke received it.

Still more clues were found at an even higher level of detail: in the microscopic structure of the iron scales themselves.

The team submitted one of the gorget’s shield-shaped scales to the metallurgy lab at the University of Arizona.

There, analysis revealed that the iron in the armor contained unusually high amount of slag — impurities like clay, quartz, and other non-metallic rock.

This high slag content is the signature of an early smelting process known as bloomery, and it’s further evidence of the armor’s age, the team said.

Bloomery was obsolete in the U.S. and Europe by the early 1800s, having been replaced by more refined smelting techniques. So the amount of bloomery iron being produced in the U.S. and Europe was “minuscule” by the middle of the nineteenth century, the team noted.

“If the bloomery iron in the Bourke scale armor was imported from Europe, then at least the iron almost certainly arrived prior to the early 1800s,” they write in journal Plains Anthropologist, where they describe their findings.

The researchers also considered another noteworthy material in the armor: the cotton.

A rear view of the gorget shows the cotton twill backing. (Photo courtesy Bleed et al., used with permission)

“I was surprised that there was a lot of cotton in the armor along with pre-blast furnace, or bloomery, iron in the armor,” Bleed said.

“People tend to think of cotton as something that got big after the gin and that is often treated as a 1830s, 1840s development.

“But by that time, bloomery iron was not being produced – at least in Europe and the U.S.

“That makes the combination of material somewhat surprising.”

A few variables remain, he added, which could still explain the provenance of the armor.

Little is known about manufacturing practices in Mexico in the early 1800s, for example, and whether bloomery iron became as scarce there as it did in the U.S. and Europe.

“We know very little about industrial production in Mexico, so I suppose it might have been made in Mexico,” Bleed said.

Another alternative, he posited, is that the Bourke armor wasn’t military armor at all.

The use of iron scales like those in the Bourke gorget are not found in European armor after the 1400s, Bleed said.

Nearly the only place they appear in 19th century material culture is in costumes, like those used in plays and operas, or as ritual dress for fraternal organizations, like the Freemasons.

That, to Bleed, may be the most likely origin of the armor — although operas and fraternal organizations were presumably rare to non-existent in West Texas in the pre-1800s, when the iron seems to have been smelted.

“I still think that it could be fraternal ritual costumery, but the iron seems too old,” he said.

“I can’t explain it.”


As for the tale that the armor was found on a skeleton, Bleed added, “It also does not look like it was buried, especially with a body. The story just seems apocryphal.”

If nothing else, the researchers were able to determine that the Bourke armor was made centuries ago, and likely very far from where it was found.

And this offers its own share of insights into how exotic goods moved around the Great Plains of the mid-19th century.

“This is a complex and well-made item, the kind of artifact that shows frontier trade to be more complex than people might have suspected,” Bleed said.

“Wherever it was made, I assume that it was traded to the Plains through the fur trade,” he added.

“It shows that the frontier trade really was international and capable supplying a wide range of stuff.

“If folks wanted armor, frontier traders would get it for them.

“The Plains were not isolated – or poor.”

Categories: Ancient Treasure, Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


USA: Ruins of Viking Settlement Discovered near Hudson River

Stony Point, NY| A team of lanscaping workers, proceeding to an excavation near the banks of the Hudson river, has discovered the archeological remains of a Norse village dating from the 9th or 10th Century AD.

The workers were digging with a mechanical shovel near the shores of Minisceongo creek, when they stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient building. A team of archaeologists linked to Columbia University, was called to the site to inspect the findings, and they rapidly identified the site as a possible Viking settlement. They proceeded to extend the excavation, and have finally discovered the remains of six buildings.

The various structures are believed to have been constructed of sod, placed over a wooden frame. Based on the associated artifacts, the buildings were variously identified as four dwellings and two workshops. The largest dwelling measured 88 by 42 feet (26.8 by 12.8 meters) and consisted of several rooms, while two of the dwellings were much smaller and were identified as living quarters for lower-status crew or slaves. The two workshops for their part, were identified as an iron smithy, containing a large forge, and a carpentry workshop.

It is unclear how many men and women lived at the site at any given time, but the archaeological evidence suggests it had the capacity of supporting between 30 to 100 individuals, and that the site was inhabited by the Norse for a relatively short period of time.


During their search of the site, the archaeologists have discovered nine skeletons, who were identified as four adult males, two adult females and three children. Only one of the male warriors had been given a proper burial, being placed in a tomb with his weapon and belongings. The other skeletons showed traces of violent injuries and seemed to have been simply left on the site of their death by the killers.

Many clues discovered on the site suggest that the Vikings could have come into conflict with the indigenous people of the region. Besides the skeletons that were found, who were most likely killed in combat, the numerous remains of native American weapons found on the site suggest the colony suffered a large-scale attack by indigenous warriors.

Several artifacts were also found on the site, suggesting the inhabitants of the site who survived the attack, must have left hastily. These include a dozen of pieces of jewelry, like brooches, pins and arm-rings, mostly made of silver and walrus ivory. The archaeologists also unearthed iron pots, potteries, oil lamps, tools, a whetstone, coins, as well as a few broken weapons and pieces of armor.


The Vikings were Germanic Norse seafarers, speaking the Old Norse language, who raided and traded from their Scandinavian homelands across wide areas of northern and central Europe, as well as European Russia, during the late 8th to late 11th centuries.

Using their advanced seafaring skills and their famous longships, they created colonies and trading posts throughout the North Atlantic islands, navigating as far as the north-eastern coast of North America. Another short-lived Viking settlement was already discovered in 1960, in present-day L’Anse aux Meadows, located in the province Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada. The remains of butternuts found on that site, had indeed suggested that other settlements further south, because these nuts do not grow naturally north of New Brunswick.

The scientists believe that the settlement could indeed be the legendary Norse colony known as “Vinland”, mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas. Based on the idea that the name meant “wine-land”, historians had long speculated that the region contained wild grapes. Wild grapes were, indeed, still growing in many areas of the Hudson Valley when the first European settlers arrived in the region, so the archaeologists believe that this could really be the colony described in the mythological saga.

Categories: Archaeology, Lost Treasure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Survivor Truck, built to drive through the end of the world……..

“Sometimes,” author William S. Burroughs once said, “paranoia is just having all the facts.” Given the facts gathered from the past few natural and man-made disasters, it’s not a surprise that many people have begun to think of what they’d need to survive the next calamity. One California man has taken a kitchen-sink approach and created the Survivor Truck — a machine that could keep rolling through any given Armageddon.

Jim DeLozier, who sells survival goods in Costa Mesa, Calif., says the idea of the Survivor Truck was to build the ultimate rolling outpost, one that could withstand even a nuclear attack. Starting with a Chevy C70 truck powered by 150-gallon tanks of gasoline or propane, DeRozier outfitted the chassis with every conceivable piece of equipment needed to travel through a disaster. “My goal was to build a vehicle that can go anywhere you want to go, stay as long as you want and drive back out,” DeLozier says.
On the outside, the truck gets bulletproof shielding, a filtration system to keep chemical agents out of the cabin and even a coating of pickup truck bedliner. Night vision helps keep watch on what’s happening when the lights go out, while a solar generator can provide power for the array of communications gear during daylight hours. On the inside, there’s enough water, food, toilets and battery power to keep a group of people not just alive but comfortable for months amidst chaos. If parked in the wilderness, the top platform includes a complete camping unit and inflatable raft, along with a water purification system; if there’s some need for an aggressive response, the truck has a protected sniper’s cage and a backup crossbow and arrows.
While DeLozier says he originally conceived the truck as the ultimate survivalist driving machine — with a price that runs between $100,000 and $600,000 — he’s received more interest from military and law enforcement agencies mulling a rolling command center. He says he’s somewhat surprised by the attention his concept has received, “whether it’s the zombie apocalypse fad or whether people believe they have a potential need….it’s designed to be a home away from home.” Given how many people have seen their homes washed away or destroyed in recent years, it’s no wonder there’s some demand for something that could outrun trouble.

Categories: Strange News, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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