NORWICH CADET UNCOVERS ANCIENT ARMOR ORIGIN

McCrystal says the lack of a helmet has made tracing the armor’s origins all the more challenging. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

McCrystal says the lack of a helmet has made tracing the armor’s origins all the more challenging. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

It was on a sheer hunch that Sean McCrystal ’17 began looking into the origins of a suit of armor believed to be of Chinese origins. Through meticulous research, the history major determined that the artifact, housed in the Sullivan Museum, had originally belonged to a Japanese samurai.

It’s easy to understand how the mix-up occurred. In 1902, alumnus and Army General Charles A. Coolidge, who had found the armor in Beijing, China, donated it to Norwich University for the fledgling museum. Coolidge had been part of the U.S. effort to subdue the Boxer Rebellion of 1899–1901. For more than 100 years, the armor was labeled as Chinese. A skeptical McCrystal began comparing it to other ancient Chinese armor. Word began to get out, catching the eye of Mike Hemond ’00, an investigator with the Burlington Police Department who set the project on a forensics path. Central Vermont Medical Center staff x-rayed the armor, and scientists have visited Norwich to perform a fluorescent lighting scan. While McCrystal continues his research, the museum has ordered DNA tests, and the artifact is presently in storage. “We have given the armor a break from light and handling,” says exhibitions associate Katherine Taylor McBroom.

Central Vermont Medical Center staff prepare to x-ray the armor while McCrystal looks on. The student has traced the Japanese samurai armor to the late 16th or early 17th century.

Central Vermont Medical Center staff prepare to x-ray the armor while McCrystal looks on. The student has traced the Japanese samurai armor to the late 16th or early 17th century.

McCrystal, whose work was funded by an Undergraduate Research Fellowship, says he plans to carry on with the investigation over the summer and maybe even travel to China in search of more answers. “I just really want to know why a Japanese armor was in a Chinese palace.”

Comments are closed.