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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Breastplates from DHR Collections



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Breastplates

Whole
breastplate recovered from Jordan’s Journey
near Hopewell, Virginia
 

44PG300/1D  Breastplate 453  

Although fragments of breastplates are fairly frequently encountered on
17th-century
Virginia archaeological sites, it is rare to come across a
complete example.  Sheet steel or iron that has been in the ground
near a tidal river for several hundred years is often in poor condition when recovered by archaeologists.  Armor fragments are covered with such thick layers of corrosion that they are almost
unrecognizable, and very little of the original metal is present under the
layers of corrosion. 
These examples have been carefully stabilized in the DHR conservation
laboratory. 

The breastplate was perhaps the most
important  piece of the pikeman’s suit and the section that needed to
be fitted to the individual wearer most carefully.  As a result, a considerable amount of variability in size and shape of breastplate
sections is represented.

In addition to the necessity of approaching
a custom fit for different sized men, a group of armor pieces at any given 17th-century site would represent armor from slightly different time
periods.  It was sometimes old, or old fashioned, before it was shipped
to the colonies. 

Breastplates
have been recovered from other
17th-century

sites in Virginia, such as
APVA
Jamestown Rediscovery
.

Whole breastplate from a
trash pit at Jordan’s Journey —
restored in the same bent, deformed
shape in which it was found

44PG300/52F-40   Breastplate 403

Major section of a
breastplate with brass rivets and inset armhole sections

44PG302/EU2129-198   Breastplate 1394

Top section
of a breastplate for a small person.
Brass rivets with diamond
shaped washers are common.

44PG302/EU2095-119   Breastplate 0008

Right
proper side of a breastplate  with a wider flared skirt 

44PG307/EU48 F-2 S-3   Breastplate 1100

Updated May 30, 2017