A Leather Cuirass from Karanis
One of the most exceptional items in the Kelsey Museum’s Karanis collection is a piece of leather armor that dates to about 250–350 CE. Though no specific information can be derived from its archaeological context, the size, quality, and intricacy of this cuirass (breastplate) indicate that it was an expensive item and most likely came from a military context. Its lightweight construction points to its being equipment for cavalry, whose main role was skirmishing, which did not require more extensive protection.
While historically significant, this rare example of Roman leather armor is unfortunately too fragile for permanent display. Curators T. G. Wilfong and Andrew Ferrara along with conservator Claudia Chemello researched, reassembled, and conserved the cuirass in preparation for the 2011–2012 special exhibition Karanis Revealed.
Click here to download a PDF of the fascinating results of their research, published in the Karanis Revealed exhibition catalog.
Would you like to learn more about the military in ancient Greece and Rome? Here is a short selection of books to get you started.
- Soldier and Society in Roman Egypt: A Social History, by R. Alston. London: Routledge, 1995.
- Greece and Rome at War, by P. Connolly. London: Frontline Books, 2016.
- The Complete Roman Army, by A. Goldsworthy. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003.
- The Late Roman Army, by P. Southern and K. R. Dixon. London: B. T. Batsford, 1996.
- Warfare in the Classical World, by J. G. Warry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.