Object Title

Lamellar coat (zub can)

Lamellar coat (zub can)



Object Number



Purchased 1 February 1986. Sold Sotheby's New York, 20-21 September 1985, lot 29 (ill).

Physical Description

A deep-skirted coat with shoulder defences and a collar, opening down the front and divided at either side from the waist down. Each front panel is composed of thirteen rows of lamellae, overlapping upwards, and the rear panel of fourteen. The fifth, sixth and seventh rows (at the front) are continuous round the body. All the lamellae overlap toward the rear, the central rear column being overlapped on both sides. Each shoulder defence is composed of twelve rows of lamellae, and the collar of a single row. The lamellae are of steel, originally polished mirror bright. They are of sixteen types (drawings on inv. file), pierced usually with twelve, but also seven, eigth, nine, ten and thirteen lacing holes, and there are 2,703 of them in total.

All the lacing is of originally white leather. The upper pair of holes is used to join to the row above, passing through the single central holes. The pairs of holes at either side overlap those of adjacent lamellae, and the rows are paced with two laces passing through each hole, one going diagonally inside to the next lamella, and the other to the next but one. The lower ege of each row is spirally bound, using the single hole at the base of each lamella.

At either side of the collar is a leather strap with an ornamental band of woven brass strip, retaining a hook at the right and a loop at the left . At either side of the front opening at the top is a strip of plaited leather bound with red fabric. At either side of the waist is leather strap decorated with woven brass strip and terminating in a loop, for fastening the coat at the waist. The lining is missing. At either cuff is a leather rectangle edged in green leather, retaining fragments of its red silk covering. At the centre rear is a steel amulet, inlaid in brass.

Much of the lacing of the shoulders is missing or damaged, and odd sections are missing from the body.


Dimensions: Height 860 mm (33.9 in), width at armpit 510 mm (20.1 in)

Inscriptions and Marks

Amulet at the rear inlaid with a number, 208.

Bibliographic References

P. Hammond, Royal Armouries Official guide, London, 1986, p. 61

D La Rocca, Warriors of the Himalayas, rediscovering the arms and armour of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006: 97-100, no. 26


This is one of the most complete surviving Tibetan lamellar coats. Other examples of the type include British Museum 1880.725 (B Thordeman, Armour from the Battle of Wisby, Stockholm, 1939, vol. 1, fig. 232) which retains the silk coverings of its leather borders; Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, Leningrad (Thordemann, p. 249, fig. 233 and 232 nos 36-7); Ethnographical Museum, Stockholm, from Nairi (Thordemann pp. 250-1, figs 234-5 and 232 nos 38-9); Museum fur Volkerkunde, Hamburg (Thordemann fig. 232 no 44); three in the Victoria and Albert Museum, from Derge, Gyantse and Darjeeling; National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1906-406, which has leather extensions for the arms studded with washers (H R Robinson, Oriental Armour, London, 1967, pp. 161-2, and TR photos); Metropolitan Museum of art 36.25.535 (G.C. Stone, A glossary of the construction, decoration and use of arms and armour, repr. New York, 1961, fig. 66); and the Ngari coat (Nebojsa Tomasevic (ed.), Tibet, London, 1981, fig. 196), which is the most complete of all, but whose location is unknown. The RA coat differs from others in having such varied lamellar types, which seems to indicate an early date, as does the concave row of lamellae at the waist. The numbered tag suggests a large armoury of such lamellar coats.