Breastplate

Project details

  • Date

     December 15, 2014

  • Client

     Bly Straube, Senior Archaeological Curator, 2014

  • Task

     Archaearium

  • Category

     Arms & Armor, Iron

Breastplate
  • Object number – 2856-JR
  • Material – Iron
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – Eearly17th century
  • Context – Smithfield Well
  • Location – Archaearium
  • Category – Arms & Armor

This breastplate was found in a well that was filled in by 1625 and is of the peascod shape typical in the early 17th century. In the English army at the time, breastplates were worn only by pikemen, the soldiers who carried pikes in massed squares in front of the men carrying firearms. But at Jamestown, the type of warfare with the Virginia Indians required a change. In 1611 the governor, Sir Thomas Dale, observed that too many of the men were dying from being hit by Indian arrows. He ordered that all men, even those carrying muskets, had to wear plate armor.

The modification of a small iron plate riveted to the upper right armhole of this breastplate was made in response to Dale’s 1611 order. It provided a way for the men carrying firearms to steady the butts of their weapons against the slippery surface of the breastplate. This butt stop has only been observed on two other breastplates, both from early 17th century Virginia sites.