Monday’s edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education brought with it wonderful exposure for UW-Green Bay Professor of Humanistic Studies Gregory S. Aldrete. In a news story headlined “The Linen Legions,” Chronicle reporter David Wescott describes Aldrete’s quest to recreate the revolutionary light armor that helped Alexander the Great conquer the world. That project reached a milestone this spring with publication of the book Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor: Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery, just out from Johns Hopkins University Press.
In addition to traditional research, the authors practiced “reconstructive archaeology,” recreating and testing linen body armor based as closely as possible on historical texts and depictions. While there is an “uneasy relationship between re-enactors and academics,” Aldrete told the Chronicle, he’d like to see more interaction, and more acceptance of different types of knowledge about the ancient world. He stressed the importance of practical knowledge, such as whether or not ancient clothing was comfortable or restrictive.
The Linothorax Project received a good amount of media attention (including from the Discovery Channel, MSNBC, U.S. News & World Report, and Der Spiegel), and while not all the reporting was fully accurate, Aldrete says, it was a net benefit to engage with the public and press: “Just look at headlines: Humanities are under attack. I’ve always felt an obligation to sell or explain the value of your discipline.” Asked how he was able to maintain students’ enthusiasm for the project over the course of six years, Aldrete chuckled. “Where else do students get to hit things with an ax and call it research? Where else do I get to shoot students with arrows and call it work?” The link for the online version of the article, with full text available only to subscribers, is: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Linen-Legions/138459/