Filling in the Gaps: Conservation and Reconstruction of Archaeological Mail Armour

M.A. Wijnhoven

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Mail armour is made of many interlinking metal rings. It has been a popular type of defensive gear through the centuries, and this popularity has in part been due to mail armour’s flexibility. However, this very flexibility today hinders its conservation, interpretation and display. Mail pieces retrieved from archaeological contexts are often in such poor state of preservation that their original shape is unrecognizable. This poses a challenge not only for conserving these artefacts, but also for understanding them. This paper describes a conservation technique for flexible mail that involves restoring preserved rings to their original position and filling in the remaining gaps with dummy rings. In addition to stabilizing the mesh of mail, this measure also aids the artefact’s interpretation. The advantages of using this method with archaeological specimens are presented by means of a case-study concerning the remains of a Roman mail coat found near Novae, Bulgaria. The case-study shows that the choice of conservation technique greatly influences the amount of information that researchers can obtain from this material.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Conservation and Museum Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • mail armour
  • Roman armour
  • military archaeology
  • mail armour conservation
  • mail construction


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