If you’ve watched enough movies, animations, or Asterix to be specific, then it’s likely that you associate the horned helmet with the Vikings. In this article, we are going to tell you all about the Viking helmet, and stating what the facts and the myths are. Ultimately, you’ll be able, to tell the truth about a people void of the stereotypes that many have come to embrace.
What’s a Viking helmet called
The truth is that Viking helmets did not have a horn. Those that do have are the imagination of one costume designer called Carl Eml Doepler. The actual Viking helmet that did not have horns were called spangenhelms or Gjemundbu helmets or even Coppergade helmets apart from the simple Viking helmet. These names were a reference to how the helmet got made, which was through putting different pieces together (you will learn later why).
Where did the idea of the horned helmet come from?
As mentioned, it was the idea of the costume designer Carl Eml Doepler, and even then, one cannot say it is his sole fault. It is popular culture that picked it up and turned it into one of the things that we associate with when it comes to Vikings, though inaccurate. It is essential to know that the idea of the horned helmet hailed from Germany.
What does a Viking helmet look like
As mentioned in the introduction, many assume that the Viking helmets contained horns at the top of them. However, that was not the case. They were quite essential; they consisted of a bowl that, when you put on your head, would form the helmet. Additionally, they had a nose guard too, which was also part of the helmet’s design. While the idea that the helmets had a horn appear to add more character to the Vikings, that is not the reality of what they did indeed wear.
Traditionally, the helmet itself got made from one piece of iron that goes hammered into shape. However, there was an easier method of combining several pieces of iron, which was referred to as the spangenhelm style of the helm. Apart from being easy, it required less labor. It was thought that the iron they used at the time, the bog iron, was harder to work with and couldn’t make a full bowl version of an iron helmet in one go.
For the most part, when people see the nose guard on the helmet, they are unsure of what the reason for it is. If you think about it, when someone hits your face during combat, it is very likely that your nose will break. However, if you have a guard that can prevent that, at least on the first blow, then you have something else to worry about and focus your attention on. The other thing to note is that the nose guard tends to be further away from the face, so getting your nose broken will be rather hard unless quite a lot of force gets used.
The other aspect that people think about when it comes to helmets is what got used on the inside to create a barrier between the head and the helmet. The reason for that is that if the helmet got hit and there was nothing between the helmet and the head, then the skull would receive the full blow from the weapon and cause a dent. Therefore, it only makes sense for there to be a shock absorber that would insulate the fighter from seeing stars as is typical in animations and other movies.
Instead, it is thought that the Viking would use either a think later of leather or sheepskin that would absorb most of the force and keep the skull safe. In the case of the sheepskin, it would have served another purpose apart from insulating most of the shock. The other use for a later of leather, and then, perhaps, a layer of ship skin, was that it could also absorb the sweat that inevitably comes from being out in the sun or being engaged in combat.
viking helmet history
Viking helmets originated within the Viking culture, primarily in the regions of Scandinavia and the Germanic territories. Their exact origin dates and locations are challenging to pinpoint, but they are believed to have emerged around the 8th century. In the Viking way of life and their harsh Nordic environment, helmets became a necessary protective gear.
The Vikings thrived in a cold and wet northern European environment, engaging in activities such as maritime trade, raiding, and piracy. These activities posed potential threats to their heads, prompting the development of head protection – the Viking helmet.
Early Viking helmets were relatively simple, crafted from materials like iron or leather and featured basic designs. As time progressed, Viking helmet designs and manufacturing techniques improved, eventually leading to the distinctive Viking helmet style. These helmets typically had a “pot-like” shape that effectively protected the head and face. Additionally, Viking helmets started to incorporate decorative elements such as precious metals and jewels, showcasing the wearer’s status and identity.
Viking helmets played a significant role in Viking culture. They not only offered protection for the head but also served as symbols of the wearer’s identity and status. Some specialized helmets even indicated the wearer’s profession and activities. The study and analysis of Viking helmets provide valuable insights into the social and cultural aspects of the Viking era.
In summary, Viking helmets are an integral part of Viking culture and a subject of interest for archaeologists. They served both protective and symbolic purposes, reflecting the identity and cultural heritage of the Vikings.
did viking helmets have horns?
No, Viking helmets did not have horns. The idea of Viking helmets adorned with horns or wings is a misconception that has been perpetuated by popular culture, art, and literature. There is no historical or archaeological evidence to support the notion that Viking helmets were equipped with horns or wings.
In reality, Viking helmets were typically conical or domed in shape and made from materials like iron, leather, or other metals. They were designed to provide protection for the head and sometimes the face. These helmets were functional and practical, intended for combat and protection rather than ornamental decoration. The misconception of horned helmets likely stems from artistic interpretations and misrepresentations of Viking warriors in later medieval art and literature.
It’s essential to rely on historical and archaeological sources for accurate information about Viking culture and artifacts, rather than popular stereotypes or misconceptions.
where did viking helmets come from?
Viking helmets, like many other aspects of Viking culture, were influenced by various sources and evolved over time. The origins of Viking helmets can be traced back to the broader European tradition of helmet-making, especially during the Viking Age, which lasted from the late 8th century to the late 11th century.
Here are some key points about the origins of Viking helmets:
European Influence: Viking helmets were influenced by the helmets used by other European cultures during the early medieval period. These cultures included the Carolingians (Franks), the Anglo-Saxons, the Byzantines, and others. Viking contact with these cultures through trade, warfare, and exploration likely contributed to the development of helmet designs.
Local Adaptation: Vikings were skilled metalworkers, and they adapted helmet designs to suit their needs and preferences. Viking helmets were typically made of iron and could have various designs, including conical, spangenhelm, or spectacle helmet styles. These designs were often adapted from existing European helmet types.
Face Protection: Some Viking helmets featured face protection in the form of a nose guard or a full-face mask. This feature was not universal but was present in some helmet designs to provide additional protection in battle.
Lack of Horns: Contrary to popular misconceptions, Viking helmets did not have horns or wings. The image of Viking helmets with horns is a later invention and not historically accurate.
Regional Variations: Viking helmets may have had regional variations influenced by local traditions and resources. For example, helmets found in different Viking-age regions, such as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, exhibit slight variations in design.
Symbolism and Decoration: Viking helmets were sometimes adorned with decorative elements, including embossed patterns, engravings, or gilded details. These decorations might have served both functional and symbolic purposes.
It’s important to note that Viking helmets, like other historical artifacts, are primarily known from archaeological finds. The surviving examples of Viking helmets are relatively rare, which makes it challenging to create a comprehensive picture of their designs and origins. Researchers and archaeologists continue to study Viking helmets to gain a better understanding of their history and development.
what were viking helmets made of?
The primary materials used in Viking helmets were metal and leather. Metal was the main component for crafting the helmet itself, while leather was used for the edges and the interior. In the Viking way of life, helmets were essential protective gear, safeguarding the head from potential harm during activities such as warfare, hunting, and sporting events.
The metals commonly used in Viking helmets were copper and iron, which were highly valuable during their time. Consequently, helmets became symbols of identity and status among the Vikings. Some high-quality Viking helmets were even adorned with precious metals like silver and gold for added aesthetics and value.
In addition to metal, leather played a significant role in Viking helmet construction. Leather contributed to the helmet’s comfort and pliability while providing some level of protection. Some simpler Viking helmets were made entirely of leather, while more advanced ones incorporated metal or other decorative materials over a leather base.
In summary, the primary materials for crafting Viking helmets were metal and leather. The choice and application of these materials not only enhanced the protective capabilities of the helmets but also reflected the social and cultural aspects of the Viking Age.
Design of Viking Helmets
The design of Viking helmets is indeed unique and characterized by several features:
Materials: Viking helmets were primarily crafted from iron and copper, which were valuable materials during their time. Some helmets also incorporated leather and wood, enhancing comfort and flexibility.
Shape: Viking helmets came in various shapes, but the most typical form was the “pot-shaped” helmet, which effectively protected the head and face. Additionally, some helmets were designed with horns, which were believed to enhance protection.
Decoration: Viking helmets featured intricate decorations, and some were even adorned with precious materials such as gold and silver. These decorations not only added to the aesthetic appeal but also conveyed the wearer’s status and identity. Some helmets were decorated with animal horns, bones, or teeth, adding to their mystique and intimidation factor.
Accessories: Certain Viking helmets featured accessories like face masks, neck guards, and ear protectors to enhance their protective capabilities. Some helmets also had metal pieces or scales attached, further bolstering their defensive properties.
In summary, Viking helmets were uniquely designed with shapes, decorations, and accessories that improved their protective qualities and aesthetic appeal while conveying the wearer’s identity and status. Studying the design of Viking helmets provides valuable insights into the social and cultural aspects of the Viking Age.
The Role of Viking Helmets
Viking helmets served several primary purposes:
Protective Function: The foremost role of Viking helmets was to protect the head from harm. Given the Viking way of life, which often involved activities such as maritime trade, raiding, and piracy, there was a constant risk of head injuries. The “pot-shaped” design of Viking helmets, along with additional protective elements, effectively reduced the risk of head injuries and ensured the safety of the wearer.
Symbol of Identity: Viking helmets were crafted and adorned in ways that reflected the wearer’s identity and social status. High-quality Viking helmets were often made with more valuable materials and intricate craftsmanship. These helmets not only provided better protection but also symbolized the wearer’s power and status.
Cultural Heritage: Viking helmets were an integral part of Viking culture, reflecting traditions related to warfare, hunting, and sporting events. Through the design and decoration of helmets, Viking aesthetics and values were expressed, making them an important vessel for the transmission and development of Viking culture.
Historical Value: Viking helmets hold significant historical value and are studied by archaeologists, displayed in museums, and collected by enthusiasts. By studying and analyzing Viking helmets, we gain a better understanding of the social, cultural, and historical aspects of the Viking Age, deepening our appreciation of Viking culture.
In summary, Viking helmets served not only as protective gear but also as symbols of identity, cultural heritage, and historical significance. Studying and appreciating Viking helmets allows us to better recognize and comprehend the importance and allure of Viking culture.
How useful were helmets?
However, from Viking sagas, we learn that these helmets were not strong. In one of the narratives, we learn that a man struck another with an ax on the helmet, and the result was that the other man got through overboard, for they were on the ship and into the sea. That happened when the character, after making the strike and trying to remove their ax (which had penetrated the helmet and skull), and tossed the man overboard as he was trying to use equal force to remove their ax.
It is not only axes that could go through the helmet. There is also literature that a sword was equally able to penetrate the helmet. One is, therefore, likely to assume that helmets got used for less serious bumps in the battlefield that would otherwise protect them from bruising and the rest. Otherwise, the helmet could also serve a person’s disadvantage, which was also unfortunate. Hitting an opponent’s helmet gave a person enough time to deal with another blow while the opponent was disoriented.
Overall, helmets were expensive to make. For that reason, there were not commonplace on the battlefield. For those who could afford them, they used the even after the battle, making mends where possible. The helmet’s owner would use if as long as it was still functional and even handing down the helmet for use until it could no longer get used because the metal got thin. Even then, the remaining evidence of helmets that got used is available in fragments are the metals were unable to withstand the test of time.
The Vikings tend to have a larger than life definition to war, the most mistaken being a helmet that contains to horns. That is not the reality on the literal ground, where it’s been discovered that the Vikings were indeed simple when it came to their helmets.
- what is a viking berserker
- what foods did vikings eat
- Styles types of viking axes and their history
- Bows and arrows in the viking age
- why were viking ships so successful and important