Horned helmet

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Plate C of the Gundestrup cauldron, 2nd–1st century BC

European Bronze Age and Iron Age horned helmets are known from a number of depictions, but few actual finds. Headpieces mounted with animal horns or replicas of them also occur, as in the Mesolithic "frontlets" from Starr Carr. These were probably used for religious ceremonial or ritual purposes.

The bronze "Ingot God" from Enkomi, 12th century BC, Cyprus Archaeological Museum, Nicosia

Prehistoric Europe[edit]

The Waterloo Helmet, ca. 150–50 BC, found in the Thames (British Museum)

Two bronze statuettes dated to the early 12th century BC, the so-called "horned god" and "ingot god", depicting deities wearing horned helmets, found in Enkomi, Cyprus.

A pair of bronze horned helmets from the later Bronze Age (dating to ca. 1100–900 BC) were found near Veksø, Denmark in 1942.[1] Another early find is the Grevensvænge hoard from Zealand, Denmark (ca. 800–500 BC, now partially lost).

The Waterloo Helmet, a pre-Roman Celtic bronze ceremonial helmet with repoussé decoration in the La Tène style, dating to ca. 150–50 BC, was found in the River Thames, at London. Its abstracted 'horns', different from those of the earlier finds, are straight and conical.[2] Late Gaulish helmets (ca. 55 BC) with small horns and adorned with wheels, reminiscent of the combination of a horned helmet and a wheel on plate C of the Gundestrup cauldron (ca. 100 BC), were found in Orange, France.

Migration Period[edit]

Depicted on the Arch of Constantine, dedicated in 315 AD, are Germanic soldiers, sometimes identified as "Cornuti", shown wearing horned helmets. On the relief representing the Battle of Verona (312) they are in the first lines, and they are depicted fighting with the bowmen in the relief of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.[3]

A depiction on a Migration Period (5th century) metal die from Öland, Sweden, shows a warrior with a helmet adorned with two snakes or dragons, arranged in a manner similar to horns. Decorative plates of the Sutton Hoo helmet (ca. 600 AD) depict spear-carrying dancing men wearing horned helmets.[4] A diebolt for striking plaques of this kind was found at Torslunda, Sweden.[5] An engraved belt-buckle found in a 7th-century grave at Finglesham, Kent in 1965 bears the image of a naked warrior standing between two spears wearing a belt and a horned helmet;[6] a case has been made[7] that the much-repaired chalk figure called the "Long Man of Wilmington", East Sussex, repeats this iconic motif, and originally wore a similar cap, of which only the drooping lines of the neckguard remain. This headgear, of which only depictions have survived, seems to have mostly fallen out of use with the end of the Migration period.

The German Hyghalmen Roll, ca. late 15th century, illustrates a horned helm in the arms of Dalheim, bottom row
Great helm of Albert von Pranckh, 14th century, showing the style often used by the Teutonic order.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no verifiable evidence that the Viking warriors originating in Scandinavia ever wore horned helmets, and indeed the only authenticated Viking helmet ever discovered was notably hornless. It is hypothesized that the Viking depiction of horned helmets may have stemmed from a popular image of Thor, wearing a helmet adorned with wings that resemble horns.[8]

Middle Ages[edit]

During the High Middle Ages, fantastical headgear became popular among knights, in particular for tournaments[9][original research?] The achievements or representations of some coats of arms, for example that of Lazar Hrebeljanovic, depict them, but they rarely appear as charges depicted within the arms themselves. It is sometimes argued that helmets with large protuberances would not have been worn in battle due to the impediment to their wearer. However, impractical adornments have been worn on battlefields throughout history.

In Asia[edit]

Japanese kabuto with buffalo horns.
Indo-Persian Devil Mask, cuirass and scimitar

In pre-Meiji Restoration Japan, some Samurai armor incorporated a horned, plumed or crested helmet. These horns, used to identify military commanders on the battlefield, could be cast from metal, or made from genuine water buffalo horns.

Indo-Persian warriors often wore horned or spiked helmets in battle to intimidate their enemies. These conical "devil masks" were made from plated mail, and usually had eyes engraved on them.

Popular association with Vikings[edit]

Ceremonial use of horned helmets during the Germanic Iron Age persisted until the 7th century and can thus be argued to possibly have overlapped with the early Viking Age. However, there is no evidence that horned helmets were ever worn in battle at any point during the Viking Age.[10]

Minnesota Viking Pat Williams at the 2007 Pro Bowl.

Nevertheless, popular culture came to associate horned helmets strongly with Viking warriors.[10] The popular association probably arose in 19th century Scandinavian Romanticism, possibly by misattribution of Bronze Age images such as the Grevensvænge figurines.[citation needed] More concrete evidence suggests those depictions were inspired by the work of Carl Emil Doepler, who in 1876 created horned helmets for use in the first Bayreuth Festival production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.[10]

A 20th-century example of this association is the Minnesota Vikings football team, which as its logo carries a horn on each side of the helmet.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Illustration from stenlose.bibnet.dk
  2. ^ "Horned helmet". Explore / highlights. British Museum. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  3. ^ Speidel, Michael (2004). Ancient Germanic warriors: warrior styles from Trajan's column to Icelandic sagas. Routledge. p. 47. ISBN 0-415-31199-3. 
  4. ^ R. Bruce-Mitford, The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial: A Handbook 2nd ed., London 1972, fig. 9 p. 30.
  5. ^ H.R. Ellis Davidson, Pagan Scandinavia London 1967, pl. 41.
  6. ^ S.C. Hawkes, H.R.E. Davidson, C. Hawkes, "The Finglesham man," Antiquity 39 1965:17-32), pp 27-30.
  7. ^ Jacqueline Simpson, "'Wændel' and the Long Man of Wilmington" Folklore 90.1 (1979:25-28), noting that J.B. Sidgewick had related the Long Man to the Torslunda die in 1939, before Anglo-Saxon and Swedish connections had been fully demonstrated (Sidgewick, "The mystery of the Long Man", Sussex County Magazine 13 [1939:408-20]).
  8. ^ http://listverse.com/2009/04/21/top-10-misconceptions-about-the-vikings/
  9. ^ See the depiction of Wolfram von Eschenbach and others in the Codex Manesse.
  10. ^ a b c "Did Vikings wear horned helmets?". The Economist explains. The Economist. February 15, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-17. "Unfortunately, few Viking helmets survive intact. The small sample size cannot prove the point definitively, but they are all horn-free....Where there were gaps in the historical record, artists often used their imagination to reinvent traditions. Painters began to show Vikings with horned helmets, evidently inspired by Wagner's costume designer, Professor Carl Emil Doepler, who created horned helmets for use in the first Bayreuth production of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" in 1876" 

External links[edit]