Horse Armour in the Medieval Islamic Middle East
By David Nicolle
Arabian Humanities, Vol.8 (2017)
Abstract: The widely held view that horse armour was not used in the early Islamic Middle East is incorrect. Whereas horse armour is clearly mentioned in the documentary record, but is almost absent from iconographic sources, it may be also present in the archaeological record. However, this latter field remains enigmatic and barely studied. It is also often difficult to distinguish between coverings with a protective function and those without. This article seeks to present and interpret the available evidence, with particular reference to the Arabian Peninsula and neighbouring regions.
Introduction: The subject of horse armour in the Islamic world requires an in‑depth study, not least in order to differentiate between decorative coverings indicating status, and coverings with a primarily protective purpose. Furthermore, it is still widely but wrongly assumed that horse armour dropped out of use in the early medieval Middle East, and that Islamic armies did not make use of it until the later Middle Ages when it supposedly reappeared as a result of Mongol and European influence. While written evidence is relatively straightforward, the pictorial record remains tantalizingly inadequate until the early 13th century. Nevertheless, it does support the documentary evidence that horse armour was used, though not widespread. Meanwhile some possible fragments in the Islamic archaeological record remain barely studied.
Top Image: A battle scene from the Baysonghori Shahnameh