Ross Hassig reports that some armor was used during the Early Classic period of Mesoamerica, including helmets of quilted cotton; shock weapons were used, and were tied to belts.

Ross Hassig

Ross Hassig, War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica (Berkley: University of California Press, 1992), 48

University of California Press
Ross Hassig
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There was little armor during the Early Classic, with the primary Teotihuacan innovation being the use of protective helmets of quilted cotton. The only other armor was the shield, which was now smaller. The large shields of the Late Formative offered more protection, but with the adoption of helmets, the defensive role of shields diminished as they could now be made smaller and lighter to increase mobility. The shield’s reduced protection was also partly offset by the addition of feather fringes to the bottom and left side, leaving the top and right sides free of obstructions so that the soldiers could wield their weapons without hindrance. Although largely ineffective against direct blows, the hanging feather curtain could deflect spent projectiles and soften direct blows with a negligible increase in weight. This trend toward lighter shields suggests they were made of woven cane or leather and were used to parry blows. Larger shields remained in use beyond the empire, but the lighter Teotihuacan shields made their use at longer distances markedly more feasible.

The shields were held by a single strap at the top, perhaps because they were flexible and had to hang once they were unrolled, or perhaps simply as a carryover form earlier shields. But in either case, this top grip did not permit effective use of the shield and the atlatl, given that the latter required two hands, which suggests at least two combat alternatives for the Teotihuacanos. They could have had separate, specialized shieldsmen, but this effectively halves the number of combatants fielded and could only have been used on a limited basis. More likely, atlatlists did not need shields at a distance or during advances while they were still beyond the reach of shock weapons and probably carried them until needed, perhaps tied to their belts.

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