Iron Breastplate

This breastplate, likely constructed as early as the 15th century, is the earliest example of plate armor excavated in Virginia.

Breastplates, one of the most important elements of armor worn in the medieval and post-medieval periods, develop in form over time to reflect stylistic change in men’s everyday clothing. This early breastplate is rounded through the torso and has a short, straight waist. This shape reflects a 15th century, simple style of men’s doublet, providing a 15th century construction date for this artifact. The breastplate has two rivet holes at the top of each side, which would have been used to strap this armor element to a corresponding backplate. The breastplate appears to have been customized for the wearer by cutting down the neck and underarm edges, making a narrower profile and likely more comfortable fit.

Seventeenth century breastplates, like this one found in a later period context at James Fort, were constructed with a central ridge that runs along the center, and a high v-shaped waist. This shape reflects a seventeenth century man’s doublet vest, with a central line of buttons and a v-shaped waist, cut to accommodate short puffy breeches.

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