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The tropical Southeast Asia (especially the Malay world, e.g. Malaysia/Indonesia) are very hot, and apparently wearing European-style full armor is very uncomfortable in hot climates.

What kind of armor, if any, did the heavy infantry/heavy cavalry soldiers in the region use before the introduction of gunpowder (or other developments which renders armour obsolete)? I think they must have not encountered European armoured soldiers, and due to the heat they might have less reason to develop heavily armoured soldiers.

Do we have any records of how they were armoured before the European's arrival? Maybe during the 14th-15th century?

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1 Answer 1

The answer to this varies considerably by region and class of soldiers. The soldiers from some higher social classes had limited armor that was made of brass plates sewn over fabric, but they represented a minor segment of the assorted militaries.

The more common foot soldier was much more limited in what constituted "armor". It would be more accurate to say that they would wear matching outfits to help distiniguish them as part of a specific army. The actual makeup of their "armor" ranged from paper, to fabric, to woven materials such as rattan.

One of the most intersting examples I found was a vest with two layers of rattan sewn together, then overlaid with hard shells. (This forum thread has five pages with different examples, but most were simply fabric. I also saw an example of a shield made of woven wicker with metal plates placed on top of it.

I think the most consistent theme that I have encountered was that their "armor" from that time period was very seriously limited and would not really be classified as actual armor in the truest sense.

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Is the lack of armour mostly due to technological limitation, climate, or other factors? –  Fitri Jan 21 '13 at 16:25
From what I read, it appears to be a lack of materials and expertise more than anything else. They didn't appear to have much expertise in metalworking, and I would assume that their exposure to European style armor was very limited. –  Steven Drennon Jan 21 '13 at 23:33
hmm, shells fixed onto rattan sounds surprisingly like the boar tusks fixed onto wicker that were used in the middle east (I think it was) at one point. –  jwenting Feb 13 '13 at 7:29

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