The word hauberk is derived from an old German word Halsberge, which originally described a small piece of mail that protects the throat and the neck (the 'Hals'). The Roman author Varro attributes the Celts with inventing mail. The earliest extant example was found in Ciumeşti in modern Romania and is dated to the 4th-5th centuries BC. Roman armies adopted similar technology after encountering it. Mail armour spread throughout the world with the expansion of the Romans and was quickly adopted by virtually every iron using culture in the world, with the exception of the Chinese, who used it rarely despite being heavily exposed to it from other cultures.
The Bayeux Tapestry illustrates Norman soldiers wearing a knee length version of the hauberk, with three-quarter length sleeves and a split from hem to crotch. Such armor was quite expensive — both in materials (iron wire) and time/skill required to manufacture it — so common foot soldiers rarely were so equipped.
The hauberk stored in the Prague Cathedral, dating from the 12th century, is one of the earliest surviving examples from Central Europe and was supposedly owned by Saint Wenceslaus. In Europe, use of mail hauberks continued up through the 14th century, when plate armor began to supplant it, and mail armour started to be recycled into other metal objects or used for scouring pads. In parts of Central Asia, it continued to be used longer.