The Dendra panoply is one of the best and most complete examples of full-body armor from the Mycenaean civilization. Created around 3,500 years ago, this complete armor is made up of different bronze plates that protected almost the entire body thanks to the shoulder pads, the barbot, the gorget and the helmet made of boar tusks.

Discovered in the 1960s by Greek and Swedish archaeologists in a tomb in the Greek village of Dendra in the Peloponnese, near what was once the city of Mycenae, it was believed from the beginning that such complex clothing (which barely allowed arms and legs free) could only have been used for ceremonial purposes.

Researchers from the University of Thessaly, however, have shown that the armor was not only made for combat, but was also one of the best military creations in history to face long-duration hand-to-hand battles such as those that took place. during the last months of the famous Trojan War.

As explained in an article published in the journal PLOS ONE, the specialists worked together with a group of Greek military special forces who wore a metal replica of the Dendra armor created in the 1980s during extensive simulations in which the rigors of battle.

The 13 volunteer soldiers completed up to 11 hours of combat protocols from the Late Bronze Age (between 1700 and 1050 BC) based on details from Homer’s Iliad. The results indicate that the bronze panoply was suitable for active warfare, providing new insights into the conflicts of that era.

“The armor had the same dimensions and a similar weight as the original from the Bronze Age. We also monitored calorie intake based on a ‘Homeric diet’ (about 4,443 calories) of bread, beef, goat cheese, green olives, onions and red wine derived from descriptions in the Iliad, and expenditure of calories together with the stress exerted on the volunteers’ bodies under typical Greek summer temperatures of 30 to 36 degrees,” explains Professor Andreas Flouris.

When the long battle began, the heart rate, oxygen consumption, core temperature, fluid loss and muscle function of the men were measured with the 23 kilos of armor on them. “We found that the panoply allowed complete flexibility of movement and did not place excessive physiological stress on the body,” he adds.

During testing, volunteers participated in various encounters, including duels, foot warriors versus chariots, ranged encounters, and chariots versus ships, according to the article. The team found that the armor did not limit anyone’s fighting ability or cause severe strain on the wearer.

“This means that, despite previous opinions that classified it only as a ceremonial costume, physically fit people could wear the armor for prolonged periods in combat. Sixty years after the discovery of Dendra armor we now understand, despite its awkward appearance at first glance, that it not only allowed almost all the movements of a warrior on foot, but was also durable enough to protect him from most blows. ”Flouris notes.

The findings add new details to historical records about armor found in Greece and Egypt, texts such as the numerous sketches on linear B tablets (syllabic script used to write Mycenaean Greek) found at Knossos (Crete), as well as illustrations of Mycenaean warriors on papyrus Egyptian.

The researchers argue that the findings made during these experiments show that the Mycenaeans had such a powerful impact on the eastern Mediterranean in part because of their advanced technology for creating ‘heavy’ armor, a considerable advantage for elite Mycenaean warriors over barely-there enemies. They carried a shield for defense or with the lighter ‘scale’ armor common in the Middle East at the time.

“Hittite records of military engagements with the Ahhiyawa, another name for the Mycenaeans, show that they had a substantial presence in western Asia Minor in the late 2nd millennium BC. “Given that the Hittite kingdom dominated most of Anatolia and parts of northern Syria and Mesopotamia, we must understand that only a significant military force could oppose them or gain their respect,” says Dr Ken Wardle, of the University of Birmingham and co-author of the study.

“Descriptions of the bronze armor used in the Iliad were thought to be later insertions or poetic license, but this research suggests otherwise. Viewing the panoply knowing that it may have been used in battle helps shed much-needed light on one of the most consequential turning points in history: the collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean towards the end of the second century. millennium BC; a time of destruction and upheaval that marked the beginning of the Iron Age,” he concludes.