European Bronze Ogive-Shaped Helmet
Culture: Euro-Bronze, European
Period: ca. 1000 B.C.
Dimensions: H: 25.5 cm
Ex-European private collection, 1990’s.
Complete helmet in very good condition; surface covered with sand remains, beautiful green patina. Composed of a single, thick sheet of bronze, probably molded and then hammered.
This military headgear is as simple as it is effective, with an ogive-shaped skull, well rounded at the top, which would have fully protected the wearer from sword strokes. For better adaptation to the human head, the base is not circular but has an oval outline. Attached atop the skull is a large, solid bronze knob supported by a small conical mount decorated with geometric patterns (concentric lines, friezes of herringbone motifs drawn with regularity and precision); the knob and its mount are both pierced with a vertical hole that reaches the inside of the helmet and would certainly have been used to support the crest. The lower edge is pierced with fourteen circular holes, regular in size, suitable for the fastening of an inner lining (probably made of leather), which would have made the helmet more comfortable to wear. This lining would no doubt have protruded a few centimeters, as evidenced by the horizontal furrow that goes around the helmet just above the perforations. Furthermore, it can reasonably be supposed that these holes were used to attach the chinstrap(s). First adopted in the eastern Mediterranean regions, metal helmets progressively reached the European continent as of the mid-2nd millennium B.C. and spread throughout the Aegean world, in Italy and then north of the Alps.
Their development was parallel to that of other elements of the defensive panoply, like the shield, the greaves and the armor, which were also worked in sheets or plaques of bronze. From the beginning, the main function of such a helmet was to protect the head of its owner from hostile blows; the different types of antique helmets therefore inform us about the weapons in use and the modes of battle. But the panoply (helmet and shield especially, because more visible on the battlefield) had a second purpose, which was to let allies and opponents know the status of its owner (soldier, leader) and to intimidate enemies by appearing stronger, better armed and more powerful, particularly with the crest. Although some specimens have been found in Italy, high or semi-spherical helmets such as this, often provided with a knob at the top, are typical to the northern Alps, the Carpathians and the Danube basin; production and use range approximately between the 13th and the 8th century B.C. This example, whose elegant ogive shape, weight and thickness in bronze allow us to include it among pieces of the highest quality, can be dated to the period of transition between the 2nd and the 1st millennium B.C.
On related helmets, see:
Antike Helme: Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Mainz/Rhine, 1988, pp. 181 ff.
BORN H., Helme und Waffen Alteuropas: Band IX, Sammlung Axel Guttmann, Mainz/Rhine, 2001, pp. 245-252.
BORN H. and HANSEN S., Ein urnerfelderzeitlicher Glockenhelm aus der Sammlung Zschille, in Acta Praehistorica et Archaeologica, 24, 1992, pp. 339 ff.
PFLUG H., Schutz und Zier: Helme aus dem Antikenmuseum Berlin und Waffen anderer Sammlungen, Basel, 1989, pp. 30-31, no. 35.
On ancient helmets in general, see:
FEUGERE M., Les casques antiques: Visages de la guerre de Mycènes à l’Antiquité tardive, Paris, 1994.