The scutum cover (Scutisque Tegimentum)

czech translation italian translation

We know many things about the roman soldier equipment while on campaign, but the current knowledge cannot definitely assure if a soldier had a true "official" list of objects to carry on. This supposed list was likely varying or decided by the commanders from time to time according with the situation.
Anyway, one of the common objects found is the scutisque tegimenta a big cover for the roman shield made in leather.
Also the literature reports some traces of this cover.

"The time was so short and the enemies so fast that the romans didn't succeded to prepare the standards and also to put on the head the helmet and to uncover their shields."1


Pic.1. An example of tegimentum.

We can only make conjectures about why the romans were so careful with their shields, in some cases some suggestions can arrive from the reenacting experience.
First of all we must remember that the shield, together with the standards, was a key object that can make recognizable each soldier as member of each group (cohors or centuriae), this means that the scutum would be always perfectly clean and with bright colours. By not using the cover, in fact, the shield is exposed not only to dust, obviously, bat also to mud, rain and, overall, the sun. Sun can be the worst enemy for the shield and can cause the precius colours fading and the leather/wood to dry.
Rain, can make the opposite by "inflatening" of humidity the woodcore.


Pic.2. One of the goat hides.


Pic.3. Top: the waterproof four layers sewing. Bottom: the simple two layers sewing with double stitching (red).

How to build it
The cover on this page has been done considering some of the evidences such as Castleford's ones. The leather used is the very thin (less than 1mm) and soft goatskin.
In total 4 complete goat hides were needed for my scutum (100x60cm), the total cost has been 40 euros (in year 2006).
The biggest problem faced was about sewings that should be waterproof in my intentions.

First we defined a top and a bottom in order to overlap the skin layers to avoid water to get in. The vertical sewings required a long and patient work because I choosed to make a 4 layers sewing as in pic.3. I don't know if this kind of sewing has some archeologic evidence, but I thought this way would be the best for waterproofing my cover. Anyway similar sewings, some times even much more complicated, has been found in many excavations, overall on tent pieces.

To stich I used the punch in pic.4 with a small hammer. The result, regarding the four layers stich is on pic.5. The distance from each stich is a bit less than 3mm.


From the left: pic.4 the tools used; pic.5 the stiched skin.


From the left: pic.6 while sewing with two awls; pic.7 detail of the four layers sewing.

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1 - Caius Iulius Caesar - De Bello Gallico (2,21)
Temporis tanta fuit exiguitas hostiumque tam paratus ad dimicandum animus ut non modo ad insignia accommodanda sed etiam ad galeas induendas scutisque tegimenta detrahenda tempus defuerit.

 

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