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Vikings Helmets

Aside from protective gear like shields and armor, the Vikings helmet was also essential. It was an important element that was present in battles during the Viking era.

During this time, the Viking helmets looked pretty simple. It took the form of a bowl and had a distinct nose guard. And contrary to popular belief, there’s barely any evidence on Viking helmets having horns.

When it came to materials, iron was quite expensive during this era. As a result, not all Vikings could afford a battle helmet. And since iron was a challenge to create, it cost extremely high during the Viking period.

Any warrior of that time would want to have a Viking helmet if they could afford it. That’s because these pieces were highly-prized and intricately preserved. Not only that, but helmets could be repaired when necessary and passed down to the next generations.

Some of these may well be utilized for centuries until the iron thins and weaken. Hence, these will last until they cannot further serve their purpose of protecting the wearer.

Who Were the Vikings?

The Vikings were known as tough and strong seafaring Norse people. They came from southern Scandinavia, which is today’s Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

From the late 8th until the 11th century, these warriors pirated, raided, traded, and then settled in different European areas. From there, they explored the west and headed for Vinland, Iceland, and Greenland.

The time these Vikings raided and settled in various areas was referred to as the Viking Age. And generally, the term Viking usually includes those living in the Norse homelands.

As these individuals set sail and raided areas, they always wore their Vikings helmets and armor. It was to protect themselves from unwanted assaults that could occur during their voyage.

The Vikings and Their Influence

The Vikings had a huge impact on the earlier medieval history of certain areas. These included Scandinavia, France, the British Isles, Estonia, Sicily, and Kievan Rus.

They were also expert navigators and sailors who ventured into North Africa, the Mediterranean, and even the Middle East. And because of their strength and skills in travel, they were the first European people to reach North America. There, they settled in Newfoundland.

These people established settlements in various areas like Ireland, Normandy, the Baltic coast, and more. Other spots included the Dnieper and the Volga trading routes, which are now Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

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Vikings and Gears

As they traveled to different areas, the Vikings were always equipped to ensure their protection and safety.

They wielded weapons and wore protective gear in case of sudden assaults during their voyage.

During the Viking Age, they utilized weapons like swords, bows & arrows, axes, lances, and spears.

They also utilized several aids to protect themselves during battles.

These warriors had shields, chain mail, and Viking helmets as well. However,

the weapons and armor they owned were all based on their economic capacities.

Though swords were the priciest weapons back then, the lances and axes were easy to afford by most warriors around.

But for someone to own the complete set of weaponry, only the richest Vikings could acquire it.

This set included a short sword or sax, a regular sword, spear, axe, plus bow & arrows.

It also included a shield, chain mail, and the Vikings helmet.

Common Characteristics of Viking Helmets

Viking helmets were essential for warfare, and these required certain aspects of being efficient for use. They did have common characteristics to them, and these are the following:

Most Viking helmets featured simple designs and often only consisted of a bowl and nose guard.

Contrary to popular belief, Vikings didn’t really wear helmets with horns. These people were after protection, comfort, and convenience, wherein such pieces weren’t considered handy nor advantageous.

Looking at the bowl of their helmets, these were crafted using several pieces of joint iron. The helmet was pieced together via rivets.

An iron band encircled these Viking helmets’ bowl while two other bands crossed the helmet’s top. The design created four openings that were often filled with iron plates, thus, producing the bowl shape. There were times when leather was used instead of iron plates due to it being cheaper.

Despite its cost-efficiency, the leather didn’t provide optimized protection like iron. It’s thought the Viking helmet had leather layers within the bowl, and sheepskin was utilized as a liner.

Leather chinstraps were present on these helmets since these helped keep them in place, especially during battles. Plus, there some Viking helmets with chain mail curtains for enhanced protection along the neck. Others featured cheek protectors that were crafted from iron plates.

The Vikings were also known to mark their helmets before heading to battle. It’s a way to indicate who they were fighting for. Lastly, the Viking helmets were prized possessions and were usually repaired then passed down to the next generation.

Our helmets

The Three Types of Viking Helmets

Due to the sufficient evidence claimed, there were three kinds of Viking helmets acquired in Scandinavia from the 10th century.

The spectacle helmet was the most classic and dominant type, while nasal helms represented a contemporary fashion. For the Russian helmets, these established the evidence of close links between East Europe and East Scandinavia.

The spectacle helmets were Vikings helmet used until 1,000 AD. Conical and nasal helmets, on the other hand, became widespread in the 11th century.

The Appearance of the Classic Viking Helmets

All the samples acquired were richly and finely adorned, and there wasn’t any actual proof that featured undecorated Viking helmets.

The tradition of decorating a Viking helmet is considered vital. Like with their masks, it displays the status of the user, or it terrified/intimidated opponents on the battlefield.

Many authors and historians claim that there’s almost no evidence of Viking helmets since they were heavy. However, this is because helmets were pricey and were mostly worn by nobles and their few followers.

Generally, most of the Viking helmets were destroyed during wars, so mist finds were their masks.

The Different Viking Helmets

Gjermundbu Helmets

One of the known Viking helmets was the Gjermundbu. It was the most basic and classic helmets utilized by the Vikings during battles. The Gjermundbu helmets were greatly favored since it’s a piece that offered high levels of protection.

These types of helmets were mainly based on the sole Viking helmet that was acquired in Scandinavia. Some parts of the helmet were seen in Denmark. These parts included the brow bands that helped protect the user’s face.

A few Viking helmets survived throughout history because the warriors weren’t accustomed to setting their gear in graves. Another reason could be because helmets weren’t often sacrificed like how they did with swords and spears. Or, only a couple of Vikings utilized the helmet, which is why only a few pieces were found today.

History of the Gjermundbu Helmet

This Viking helmet was acquired by accident on the 30th of March in 1943. It was found in a Gjermundbu farm near Haugsbygd, Ringerike – a municipality of Buskerud, Norway.

These were studied and investigated by professionals. And eventually, these people confirmed the presence of a historical burial chamber that dates back to the Viking period.

It was eventually called the Gjermundbu helmet and was found in nine different fragments that were restored later. This Viking helmet featured the shape of a peaked cap developed via four plates made of iron.

Today, you can find the Gjermundbu helmets at the University of Oslo – Museum of Cultural History, Norway.

The Gjermundbu funnet or finds consisted of numerous artifacts that included pieces of weaponry.

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The Gjermundbu Helmets’ Appearance

The Gjermundbu helmet was crafted to appear like a skull cap with riveted strips for reinforcements and decorations. The front portion of the Viking helmet featured an eyepiece to protect the warrior’s face during battles. Along its crest, a spike was present in the area.

For its rear and sides, the Viking helmet sports an aventail to safeguard the user’s neck. This is with the aid of a mail drape.

A couple of helmets from that period featured solid plates or mail curtains to offer extra protection to the user. These additional defenses offered great protection and security from attacks on vital parts of the neck and head.

Additionally, the Vikings may have integrated other types of solid neck and cheek protection too.

Yarm Helmet

Another Viking helmet was the Yarm helmet. It was discovered in the 1950s by workers digging and investigating pipe trenches in the Chapel Yard, Yarm. It was basically the first Anglo-Scandinavian helm acquired in the area.

Research claims that the Yarm helmet dates back to the 10th century. It’s a piece made from iron plates and bands. These were linked together via a simple knop at the top of the helmet.

Beneath its brow band, you’ll find a spectacle guard along the nose and eyes. It forms a type of mask suggesting a similarity with the earlier helmets from the Vendel Period.

The lower corner of the brow band is penetrated with circular holes. This was where mail curtains or even aventails were connected.

The Norman Helmets

Do note that not all Norse or Viking helmets featured cheek plates. The Norman helmets often sported conical shapes instead.

The thing here is a lot of helmets acquired the appearance of a known medieval European helmet called the spangenhelm. It was a piece designed around the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages of history.

Nasal Helmet

The nasal helmet was one kind of battle helmet described by having a protruding bar covering the nose. It was essential for protecting the center of the user’s face.

Technically, this piece was of Western-European origins and was utilized from the late 9th century to around c.1250.

Other Viking Helmets

From illustrations and runestones, it’s known that the Vikings also utilized simpler types of helmets. Often, these were capped with a nose guard and nothing more.

A couple of research shows that it was likely that these warriors rarely utilized metal helmets. As for the Viking helmets with metal horns, these were presumably used for ceremonial purposes. These pieces were from the Nordic Bronze Age that was 2,000 years earlier than the Viking period.

Viking Helmet Fragments

Tjele Helmet Fragment

The Tjele fragment from a Viking helmet is an age-old piece of bronze and iron. Originally, it consisted of the nose and brow guards of a helmet.

The fragment was discovered in the year 1850, together with other smiths’ tools in Denmark. For hundreds of years, the fragment was thought to be a saddle mount. In 1984, the piece was identified properly and was considered a remainder of the only few known Viking helmets.

Dating around 950 to 970 AD, the fragment was joined by the known Gjermundbu helmet. It also included two pieces from Gotland, and an additional one from Kiev.

These fragments represent the last evolution of these crested-type helmets utilized in Europe from the 6th century onwards.

Additionally, the Tjele fragment was among the only two such helmets acquired in Denmark. The much earlier Gevninge helmet fragment was found in 2000. It dates back around 550 to 700 AD.

Lokrume Helmet Fragment

The Lokrume helmet fragment is an adorned brow fragment from a Swedish helmet that dates back to the Viking Age. The piece was found in Lokrume – a tiny settlement on the Gotland Island. It was published in 1907 and is now part of the Gotland Museum’s collection.

The fragment was made of iron, while its surface is embellished with niello and silver that creates an interlaced pattern. It was specifically a remnant of an eyebrow piece and was part of a nose guard of a helmet.

This piece measures 13.2 centimeters wide. The iron core was either inlaid or coated with silver, which was inlaid with niello itself. Its inlaid design expands the fragment’s width, though many sinister portions have been lost.

It comes with a symmetrical pattern that’s designed with twisted circles and bands. Crosswise bands further decorated the area along the pattern.

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Gevninge Helmet Fragment

Helmets like what the Gevninge fragments decorated served as a utilitarian tool and display of one’s status.

This type of Viking helmet fragment is a dexter eyepiece of a particular helmet. It comes specifically from the Viking or the end of the Nordic Iron period. The piece was found in 2000 during excavations of Viking farmsteads in Gevninge that’s close to Lejre in Denmark.

The acquired fragment was molded and gilded from bronze. It was made up of a decorated brow piece with lashes above one oval opening. You’ll find three holes at the bottom and top of the fragment to set the eyepiece to the Viking helmet.

It’s a significant fragment considered as some form of rare proof of contemporaneous helmets. Plus, it’s also an outpost that’s likely linked to the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf.

The Gevninge Viking helmet fragment has been in the Lejre Museum since it was discovered. Plus, it was displayed internationally as a part of the traveling exhibition on ancient Vikings.

This fragment is a decorated piece, but nothing else can be found on the helmet. The fragment was likely a remnant of a dismantled helmet. Or, it may have been discarded or lost by the owner.

The Gevninge fragment is among the two Scandinavian eyepieces that were found on their own. This gives rise to various ideas that the fragments may have been deposited intentionally. It was likely for an invocation to the one-eyed god named Odin.

It was likely a part of an ornamented crested helmet. This type was a form of headgear common in Scandinavia and England from the 6th through the 11th centuries AD.

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Characteristics of the Gevninge Helmet

The Gevninge eyepiece measures 8 centimeters wide and 5 centimeters high. It was a piece molded from bronze and is gilded as well.

There are oval eye openings overlaid with sculpted brows, plus grooves that represent an individual’s hair. The grooves that were present along the oval’s perimeter may likely represent eyelashes.

The bottom and top of the fragment feature three holes that were likely utilized for linking it to the helmet. It was also likely where the dexter eyepiece was formed.

For the three top-most holes they may have been used to attach the helmet cap. However, the bottom three were likely used to connect some form of facial protection like a camail or face mask.

Horned Helmet – A Misconception

Aside from two or three displays of ritualistic helmets with horns, there are no depictions of such Viking helmets. Also, there were no preserved helmets that featured horns.

The formal closed quarter style of combat used by the Vikings did not fit well with such pieces. It would’ve made the use of horned helmets cumbersome and dangerous to the wearer.

With that, numerous historians believe that these warriors didn’t wear horned Viking helmets. And the use of these for ritualistic purposes remains unproven as well.

This misconception that Viking warriors used horned helmets was partly declared by the 19th-century aficionados of the Götiska Förbundet. It was founded in 1811 in Stockholm.

They promoted Norse mythologies as the topic of high art and other moral and ethnological aims.

Often, the Vikings were also described as having winged helms, especially in descriptions of Norse gods. This was necessary to approve the Vikings and their mythologies by linking it with the Classical World. The latter has long been romanticized in European cultures.

Horned helmets coming from the Bronze Age were displayed in petroglyphs. These appeared in various archaeological finds and were likely utilized for various ceremonial purposes.