First Ever Viking Helmet Discovered in Britain

First Ever Viking Helmet Discovered in Britain

First Ever Viking Helmet Discovered in Britain

In the 1950s, a rusted iron helmet was discovered by workers who installed sewage pipes at Yarm, a small town in Yorkshire, England. Now, BBC News reports, a new study has identified the artefact as a rare example of Viking armor from the 10th century.

According to a statement,  the gear is the first of its kind ever found in Britain and only the second nearly complete Viking helmet in the world. (In Gjermundbu, Norway, the other was found in 1943).

The Yarm Viking helmet

Yarm Town Council loaned the piece, known as the “Viking helmet” by locals, a few decades ago to Preston Park Museum in the vicinity of Eaglescliffe.

It has remained there, relatively unstudied despite debate over its age and provenance, ever since, writes Jo Kelly for British newspaper the Northern Echo.

Chris Caple, an emeritus archaeologist at Durham University, launched the new research project in hopes of shedding light on the mysterious artifact’s origins.

Tests on the helmet’s corroded metal and evidence collected from more recent archaeological discoveries informed his analysis, according to BBC News.

Writing in the journal Medieval Archaeology, Caple notes that the Yarm helmet was made in northern England between the 9th and 11th centuries. Fashioned out of “riveted, undecorated, thin iron plates,” the head covering is “a composite construction ‘crested’ helmet.”

The researcher further states that at the time of the artifact’s discovery, it was without parallel, making it virtually impossible to attribute to any particular time period or culture.

X-ray of the Yarm helmet shows the rivets and overlapping plates of its construction.

In a statement, Caple describes the project as “challenging.” Since the helmet’s thin iron is fragile and prone to further corrosion, it had to be kept and examined in very dry conditions.

“[I]t was not simply a question of showing the date at which it was created,” says Caple, “but working out how it had survived until it was unearthed in the 1950s.”

The analysis showed that the helmet was preserved in “waterlogged conditions” but later became damaged and began to rust away. Luckily, construction unearthed the armor before it could corrode entirely.

Anglo-Scandinavian artifacts dated to the tenth century are rare because by that point in history, Christianity had become the dominant religion, and the practice of burying objects in graves was largely abandoned, according to the statement.

Caple says that the Yarm helmet appears to have been hidden in a pit.

The Gjermundbu helmet. Discovered in Norway in 1943.

Per the paper, the unadorned helmet’s “materials and construction speak to the growing pragmatism of arms and armor production, which was necessary to supply the increasing numbers of armed warriors present in this period.”

As Preston Park Museum explains, helmets were exceptionally rare between the sixth and eighth century.

Only northern Europe’s rich and powerful had access to the headgear, which featured showy designs and was worn as a sign of authority rather than a form of protection. Following owners’ deaths, helmets were often interred as grave goods.

But by the ninth century, most professional warriors had a simple helmet like the one found in Yarm. Together with chainmail shirts called hauberks, helmets were “essential personal protective equipment for a warrior,” says Caple in the statement.

He adds, “We see almost all the combatants in the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry wearing helmets and hauberks.”

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