Boar's tusk helmet

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Mycenaean Greek boar tusk helmet from Mycenae, 14th century BC. On display at the National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

Helmets using ivory from boar's tusks were known in the Mycenaean world from the 17th century BC (Shaft Graves, Mycenae[1][2]) to the 10th century BC (Elateia, Central Greece). The helmet was made through the use of slivers of boar tusks which were attached to a leather base, padded with felt, in rows. A description of a boar's tusk helmet appears in book ten of Homer's Iliad, as Odysseus is armed for a night raid to be conducted against the Trojans.

Meriones gave Odysseus a bow, a quiver and a sword, and put a cleverly made leather helmet on his head. On the inside there was a strong lining on interwoven straps, onto which a felt cap had been sewn in. The outside was cleverly adorned all around with rows of white tusks from a shiny-toothed boar, the tusks running in alternate directions in each row.

—Homer, Iliad 10.260–5

Μηριόνης δ' Ὀδυσῆϊ δίδου βιὸν ἠδὲ φαρέτρην / καὶ ξίφος, 8ἀμφὶ δέ οἱ κυνέην κεφαλῆφιν ἔθηκε / ῥινοῦ ποιητήν: πολέσιν δ' ἔντοσθεν ἱμᾶσιν / ντέτατο στερεῶς: ἔκτοσθε δὲ λευκοὶ ὀδόντες / ἀργιόδοντος ὑὸς θαμέες ἔχον ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα / εὖ καὶ ἐπισταμένως μέσσῃ δ' ἐνὶ πῖλος ἀρήρει.

Fragments of ivory which might have come from helmets of this kind have been discovered on Mycenaean sites, and an ivory plaque, also from a Mycenaean site, represents a helmet of this kind. Although they would not provide as good protection as a metal helmet, they may have been worn by some leaders as a status symbol, or a means of identification.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Shaft Graves, Dartmouth College
  2. ^ Nobuo Komita, The Grave Circles at Mycenae and the Early Indo-Europeans