Research

Who actually owned the "horned" Viking helmets?

In feature films and worksViking literature is portrayed as formidable warriors armed with powerful axes and protected by "horned" helmets. Thanks to the Internet, many of us already know very well that at least the last attribute of the stereotypical image of the ancient Scandinavians is just a beautiful fiction. The Vikings could not wear helmets with menacing horns because such elements would clearly interfere with them in battle - enemies could easily catch on the horns and pull off the protection from their heads, and then deliver fatal blows. In the entire history of research, archaeologists managed to find helmets with horns only once, back in 1942. In those days, scientists could not accurately answer in what period of human history they were made. Only recently a piece of birch tar was found in one of the helmets, which greatly simplified the calculations. As expected, these helmets did not belong to the Vikings.

If Vikings didn't wear horned helmets, who did they belong to?

The emergence of the image of the Vikings with horned helmets

To begin with, it is worthwhile to figure out where in generala stereotype arose about the "horned" helmets of the Vikings. One version says that the stereotypical image of the Vikings appeared at the time when Christianity arose in Scandinavia. According to this version, for Christian missionaries, the inhabitants of Northern Europe seemed like barbarians, which is why they were portrayed as wild people - the presence of horns, supposedly, was one of their main features. But there is no written confirmation of all this, so this version is not popular.

It is believed that Christian missionaries considered the Vikings to be savage barbarians.

The most plausible version says that the imageThe “horned” Vikings first appeared in the 19th century, in illustrations for the literary work Fridtjof Saga by the Swedish poet Esaias Tegner. Also, Scandinavian warriors in this image appear in the opera of the German composer Richard Wagner "Ring of the Nibelung". The costume designer was Emil Depler, and he obviously had no idea what the ancient warriors could look like - in those days there were very few archaeological finds from the Viking era.

Illustration for the work "Ring of the Nibelung"

Finding a real helmet with horns

One of the first finds of this kind was made in1904. Then, near the Norwegian city of Tensberg, an oak drakkar was found - it was one of the ships that were used to bury a dead person. Before being used for ritual purposes, the vessel was decorated with various designs. One of them depicted a warrior wearing a horned helmet. But at the same time, archaeologists could not find a single real helmet of this shape. Judging by the finds, in most cases, the Vikings used armor and helmets stolen from other nations for protection.

Oseberg boat, found in 1904

But one day, in 1942, one of the inhabitants of Denmarkstill found a horned helmet. During the Second World War, scientists did not have time to study this artifact, so people again began to portray the Vikings as warriors with horned helmets. And this trend has existed for a very long time - most likely, it began to disappear only after the advent of the Internet, thanks to which people began to significantly expand their horizons. In those days, it was very difficult to determine the exact age of the helmet, and archaeologists shared a very loose date - the Bronze Age.

Helmet found in Denmark in 1942

See also: Vikings were the first to settle the Azores over 1000 years ago

Who wore helmets with horns?

Fortunately, recently in a scientific journalPraehistorische Zeitschrift published more accurate data. In 2019, while photographing a horned helmet, one of the researchers noticed a piece of birch tar in the artifact. Thanks to this small detail, scientists were able to perform radiocarbon analysis and give the exact date of manufacture of the helmet. Turns out, the helmet was created around 900 BCwhen the Vikings did not yet exist.

Archaeological finds made in Iberia, Scandinavia and Sardinia

Therefore, the found helmet belongs to the lateBronze Age and was made in Northern Europe. The researchers suggest that the artifact ended up in Scandinavia, overcoming the sea route that stretches from the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast. This route is known to have been used by the Phoenicians for trade after about 1000 AD. So horned helmets could be used by representatives of other peoples, but not by the Vikings. And even more so, they were not worn during battles, because on the found copy there is no damage from swords and other types of weapons.

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