Archaeologists Uncover Jack of Plate Armor
The remains of a jack of plate, the colonial equivalent of a modern-day flack jacket or bullet-proof vest, was first discovered at Historic Jamestowne on Friday by APVA Archaeologist Luke Pecoraro. It was removed from the field by Conservator Michael Lavin in a 175 pound block of earth for final excavation and conservation on Monday. The armor was buried in a pit a few yards inside the west wall of the James Fort site that appears to date to the early years of the 1607 settlement.
Evidence of plate armor, such as breastplates and backplates, being cut up into small squares for jacks has been found in other pits at the fort site that date to 1610 or earlier, so it's possible that the jack was made in Jamestown. If so, William Kelso, director of archaeology, said it's evidence of how the colonists adapted to conditions in the New World. Jacks of plate were made by quilting small overlapping squares of iron between two pieces of canvas. These garments, weighing about 17 pounds, were lighter and more flexible than solid breastplates. They also allowed soldiers with firearms to rest the butts of their weapons firmly against their shoulders, which was not possible with the smooth surface of plate armor.
Bly Straube, curator, said jacks of plate were primarily used in England in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1622, the king sent a supply of armor including jacks of plate to Jamestown. By then, the jacks were considered "obsolete" in England, but they were still considered useful to the Jamestown colonists for protection against Indian attacks.