Coppergate Helmet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Coordinates: 53°57′39″N 1°04′59″W / 53.960934°N 1.083183°W / 53.960934; -1.083183

Coppergate Helmet
Coppergate Helmet YORCM CA665-1.jpg
The Coppergate Helmet
Material Iron, brass containing 85% copper
Created eighth century
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.


Northumbrian cavalry (right) wearing helmets similar to the Coppergate Helmet - Pictish memorial stone at Aberlemno

Like many other helmets of Germanic Western and Northern Europe in the Early Middle Ages the construction of the Coppergate helmet is derivative of Late Roman helmet types.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]


The nasal of the helmet showing decoration composed of two interlaced beasts

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 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."[5]

Oshere is a male Anglian name and XPI are the first three letters of the word Christos Χριστός (khristos) in Greek.[3]

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.[6]

Discovery and conservation[edit]

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.[2]


  1. ^ James 1986, p. 134.
  2. ^ a b Tweddle 1992.
  3. ^ a b SKB 2006.
  4. ^ Cruickshank, Graeme (1985), Nechtansmere 1300: A Commemoration, Forfar: Forfar & District Historical Society.
  5. ^ Binns, Norton & Palliser 1990.
  6. ^ Wilson 1984, pp. 67–69.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]