This book attempts to summarise the current stage of knowledge about the military equipment of the Bronze Age Near East, Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, looking at weapons, chariots, armour and shields. The main strength of this book is Howard's determination to stick to provable facts. He doesn't consider artistic representations of armour to be of great value, and gives a very convincing explanation of this attitude - so much of the interpretation of art works is effectively guesswork, with painted metal, leather and linen armours looking similar and details of armour deduced from patterns that were probably just an artistic convention.
He thus bases all of his conclusions on the rare surviving examples of armour, supported by contemporary textual descriptions. Many of these early texts were working documents and records, so contain plenty of linguistic clues. Contemporary artwork is used as a supplementary source, used to help interpret the surviving fragments of equipment. Modern reconstructions and the results of experimental archaeology are also used, although many had quite serious flaws which Howard has to work around.
There are just enough illustrations to support the more difficult parts of the text (at first I didn't realise that the illustrations to go with the long list of sword types were all placed at the back of the book). Most are scattered around the text, although there is a section of colour plates that make you realise just how beautiful ancient bronze was.
This is a fairly dry read, but it is also a very valuable piece of work, providing a splendid overview of the current state of knowledge on the military equipment of these early civilisations, possibly the first ones to engage in large scale warfare.
1 - Bronze Age Warfare
2 - Weapons
3 - Chariots
4 - Armour
5 - Shields
1 - Homeric Shields
2 - Homeric Armour
3 - Warriors of the Bronze Age
4 - Typology of Bronze Age Swords
Author: Dan Howard
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military