A typical example of chainmail.
|Period||3rd century BC, to Present (in different forms)
Predominate in 10th-13th centuries.
|Class of Armour||Light|
|Nationality||Europe, later the Middle East|
Chainmail is a form of armour that was extremely popular during the Early Middle Ages, particularly Europe. It is main from a set of several hundred metal rings, all linked together. It was typically attributed to the knightly class, and was soon used to reinforce plate as an underlayer. Most men-at-arms couldn't afford it, and wore leather padding instead.
The earliest finds of European pattern mail are from the 3rd century BCE. Its invention is commonly credited to the Celts, but there are also examples of Etruscan pattern mail dating from at least the 4th century BCE. Mail spread to North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, Tibet, Korea and Japan from Europe.
Mail continues to be used in the 21st century as a component of some body-armours, cut-resistant gloves, and a number of other applications.
Mail was extremely expensive and attributed to the upper classes. However, by the 14th century, the common footsoldier was also using it, possibly.
- Chainmail has become synonymous with the word 'armour' along with plate armour.