The Coppergate Helmet
|Material||Iron, brass containing 85% copper|
|Discovered||1982 Coppergate York|
|Present location||Yorkshire Museum|
The Coppergate Helmet (also known as the York Helmet) is an eighth-century Anglo-Saxon helmet found in York. It is remarkably well preserved and, together with the Benty Grange, Pioneer, Shorwell, Sutton Hoo, and Staffordshire helmets, is one of only six Anglo-Saxon helmets discovered to date.
It has a rounded composite skull; the iron elements making up the skull are riveted together. Two deep cheek-pieces are attached to the skull by hinges. A mail curtain (camail) is attached to the lower rim of the helmet behind the cheek-pieces to defend the wearer's neck and an unusually large nose-guard (nasal) provided facial protection. The mail is remarkable in consisting of forge-welded links, rather than the far more common riveted links. It is richly decorated with brass ornamentation. On analysis, the helmet was found to be made of iron, with applied brass-work containing approximately 85 percent copper. Its basic construction is almost identical to another surviving Anglo-Saxon helmet, the Pioneer helmet. It is also very like the helmets depicted being worn by Anglo-Saxon Northumbrian cavalrymen on one of the Pictish Aberlemno Sculptured Stones, believed to depict the Battle of Dun Nechtain of 685.
The helmet has two low crests of brass, one running from front to back, the other from side to side, forming a cross shape when viewed from above. The brass banding within the crests bears a Latin inscription:
- IN NOMINE : DNI : NOSTRI : IHV : SCS : SPS : DI : ET : OMNIBVS : DECEMVS : AMEN: OSHERE : XPI
- "In the name of our Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God; and to all we say Amen / Oshere / Christ"
An alternative interpretation suggests the following translation:
- "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Spirit of God, let us offer up Oshere to All Saints. Amen."
Oshere is a male Anglian name and XPI are the first three letters of the word Christos Χριστός (khristos) in Greek.
The brass crest terminates in a decorative animal head at the base of the nasal. The brass eyebrow decorations that flank the nasal also terminate in animal heads. The decoration of the nasal consists of two intertwined beasts, whose bodies and limbs degenerate into interlace ornament.
Discovery and conservation
The helmet was discovered on 12 May 1982 during excavations for the Jorvik Viking Centre. It was struck and damaged by a mechanical digger in the afternoon, and by the evening had been packaged and removed by a team of archaeologists monitoring the site. The pit in which it was found may once have been a well, within which the helmet was hidden. The helmet is now in the Yorkshire Museum.
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- Binns, James W.; Norton, Edward C. & Palliser, David M. (March 1990). "The Latin inscription on the Coppergate helmet". Antiquity. 64 (242): 134–139. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00077383.
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- Tweddle, Dominic (1983a). "The Coppergate Helmet" (PDF). Fornvännen. 78: 105–112. ISSN 0015-7813.
- Tweddle, Dominic (1983b). "The Coppergate helmet – a recent find in York". In Lamm, Jan Peder & Nordstrom, Hans-Åke. Vendel Period Studies: transactions of the Boat-Grave Symposium in Stockholm, February 2–3, 1981. Studies – The Museum of National Antiquities, Stockholm. 2. Stockholm: Statens Historiska Museum. pp. 190–191. ISBN 978-91-7192-547-3.
- Tweddle, Dominic (1992). The Anglian Helmet from 16–22 Coppergate (PDF). The Archaeology of York. 17/8. London: Council for British Archaeology. ISBN 1-872414-19-2.
- Wilson, David M. (1984). Anglo-Saxon Art: From the Seventh Century to the Norman Conquest. London: Thames and Hudson. (US edition: Overlook Press)
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