About 2,500 years ago, a man in northwest China was buried with armor made of more than 5,000 leather scales, a military garment fashioned so intricately, its design looks like the overlapping scales of a fish, a new study finds.
The armor, which resembles an apron-like waistcoat, could be donned quickly without the help of another person. “It is a light, highly efficient one-size-fits-all defensive garment for soldiers of a mass army,” said study lead researcher Patrick Wertmann, a researcher at the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies of the University of Zurich.
The team called it an early example of bionics, or taking inspiration from nature for human technology. In this case, the fish-like overlapping leather scales “strengthen the human skin for better defence against blow, stab and shot,” said study co-researcher Mayke Wagner, the scientific director of the Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Institute and head of its Beijing office.