Viking Helmet – A Complete Guide

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Viking culture, including the iconic Viking helmet, has captivated the imaginations of people around the world. In fact, thanks in part to the image of fierce warriors donning helmets with horns.

But how accurate is this portrayal? Additionally, what do we really know about the headgear worn by these legendary Norse seafarers?

In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating world of Viking helmets, debunking myths, examining their types and features, and discovering their cultural significance.

Viking Helmet: Key Takeaways

  • Debunking the myth of horned helmets, archaeological evidence does not support its existence.
  • Artistic interpretation has played a major role in perpetuating this misconception.
  • Viking helmets symbolize strength and power used in rituals and ceremonies to demonstrate social standing. Furthermore, modern reenactments provide an immersive experience for those interested in learning about their culture.

Debunking the Myth of Horned Helmets

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The image of horned Viking helmets has become deeply ingrained in popular culture, but the truth is quite different. In fact, there is no archaeological evidence supporting the existence of such helmets among the Vikings. So, how did this myth come into existence?

First, we will delve into the roots of the horned helmet myth. Then, examine historical evidence that contradicts it and consider how artistic interpretation has perpetuated this misunderstanding.

Origin of the Horned Viking Helmet Myth

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The horned helmet myth can be traced back to the 19th century when artists like John Charles Dollman and Richard Wagner’s opera popularized the image of Viking warriors wearing Norse helmets with horns.

Other cultures possibly influenced these artistic representations. For example, the Celts and Romans also wore helmets with horns.

Another factor contributing to the myth is the presence of horned headgear on the tapestry located in the Oseberg burial. However, it’s worth mentioning that these depictions do not represent actual Viking helmets.

Historical Evidence Against Horned Helmets

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Despite the pervasive myth, archaeologists have not uncovered any Viking-era helmets adorned with horns. The absence of such evidence strongly suggests that horned helmets were not a part of Viking culture. Artistic interpretation and popular culture have played a significant role in perpetuating the myth of horned helmets.

Contemporary portrayals, including films, television programs, and video games, continue to feature Vikings wearing horned helmets, further reinforcing the misconception.

The Role of Artistic Interpretation

Artistic interpretation has had a considerable impact on the horned helmet myth. Artists such as Lorens Frølich depicted scenes from Norse mythology with horned Viking helmets, contributing to the myth.

The widespread image of Vikings wearing horned helmets in popular culture. Additionally, films, television series, and video games have only strengthened this notion.

However, historians and archaeologists agree that there is no proof that Vikings actually wore horned helmets.

Viking Helmets: Types and Features

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Having dispelled the horned Viking headgear myth, we will now investigate the different types and features of actual Viking helmets, such as the Gjermundbu and Norman helmets, which were genuinely worn during the Viking Age.

Gjermundbu Helmet

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The Gjermundbu helmet was discovered in 1943 at the Gjermundbu farm near Haugsbygd in Norway. Additionally, it is considered one of the most important Viking helmets ever unearthed. It is the only Viking helm found with its original face mask still intact.

The discovery of the Gjermundbu helmet has provided invaluable insight into the design and construction of Viking helmets. Therefore effectively shedding light on their true appearance and functionality.

Norman Helmets

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Norman helmets are characterized by their conical shape and distinctive nose protector riveted to the forehead. They were first used in the 11th century by the Normans. They gained popularity following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

Viking helmets significantly influenced these helmets. In turn, the conical shape of Norman helmets derived from the round, curved shape of Viking helmets.

Other Viking Helmet Styles

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Aside from the Gjermundbu and Norman helmets, there are other Viking helm styles. These include those made from leather or featuring a chainmail aventail.

Each style offers its own unique set of characteristics and protection. For example, the Gjermundbu helmet’s rounded shape and nose protection, the Norman helmet’s peaked cap and chain mail aventail, and the leather cap’s simple construction and lack of metal components.

The choice of helmet style ultimately depends on the wearer’s preferences and needs.

Materials and Construction of Viking Helmets

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Viking helmets were primarily made of iron and steel, with leather headgear and chainmail aventails sometimes added for augmented protection.

We will now examine in detail the materials used and the construction techniques involved in crafting Viking helmets.

Iron and Steel Helmets

Iron and steel helmets, such as the Gjermundbu and Norman helmets, were typically adorned with intricate designs and decorations. In turn, enhancing their aesthetic value. These helmets included protective features like nose protection, a rounded or peaked cap, and a chain mail aventail for additional protection.

Iron and steel helmets offered durability and effective protection during battle.

Leather Caps

Leather caps were more affordable and lightweight alternatives to metal helmets. While they were not as resilient as metal helmets, they still offered some protection and were more comfortable to wear. However, they were more vulnerable to damage from water and other elements.

If you opt for a leather cap, consider the quality of the leather and ensure it fits properly.

Chainmail Aventail

A chainmail aventail is a type of armor crafted from interlocking metal rings and is designed to provide additional protection to the neck and shoulders. Chainmail aventails were often incorporated into Viking helmets, particularly the Norman helmets, to offer extra protection and flexibility.

The use of chainmail in Viking helmets demonstrates their innovative approach to armor design and the importance of safeguarding the wearer, as many warriors relied on these helmets in battle.

Protection and Functionality of Viking Helmet

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Viking helmets were designed to protect the head during battle, with their metal construction providing some defense against blows and impacts. However, they were not impervious and were intended to absorb the impact of a strike.

We will now scrutinize the specific protective features of Viking helmets, including the nose guard, the rounded or peaked cap, and the additional protection provided by chainmail.

Nose Guard

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The nose guard, commonly found on Viking helmets, serves as a protective device worn on the face to safeguard the nose from potential harm. Constructed with materials such as polycarbonate, nose guards provide enhanced clarity and crack/shatterproof protection.

The design of the nose guard contributes to the helmet’s overall protective features, ensuring the wearer is adequately shielded during battle.

Rounded or Peaked Cap Helmet

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Rounded and peaked cap designs each have their respective advantages and disadvantages. Thus, Rounded headgear is generally more comfortable and provides better protection from the elements, whereas peaked headgear offers a more formal look and better visibility.

Ultimately, choosing between a rounded or peaked cap depends on the individual’s needs and preferences.

Chain Mail for Additional Protection

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Chain mail is an excellent addition to any Viking helmet for enhanced security and suppleness. It is lightweight and can be layered over other armor, making it an ideal choice for those seeking additional protection.

Incorporating chain mail into Viking helmets showcases the innovative design and attention to detail that characterized Viking armor.

The Cultural Significance of Viking Helmets

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Beyond their practical use in battle, Viking helmets hold a unique cultural significance, symbolizing Viking culture and embodying strength, bravery, and warrior identity.

They were also used in rituals and ceremonies, further demonstrating their importance in Viking society. We will delve into the significance of helmets in rituals and ceremonies and the symbolism they embody.

Helmets in Rituals and Ceremonies

Viking helmets were sometimes used in ritualistic and ceremonial contexts, associated with Norse deities, and potentially worn by warriors during religious activities. Helmets were perceived as a symbol of strength and power, often utilized to demonstrate the wearer’s status.

In this context, helmets served not only as practical protection but also as a powerful cultural symbol.

Symbolism of Viking Helmets

Viking helmets symbolized courage, power, and status within Viking society. They were often adorned with symbols and designs demonstrating the wearer’s bravery and social standing.

The importance of Viking helmets in Viking society is evident not only in their practical use in battle but also in their cultural significance as symbols of strength and warrior identity.

How to Choose a Viking Helmet: A Buyer’s Guide

Selecting the perfect Northman helmet requires careful consideration of factors such as head circumference, style, and budget. In this buyer’s guide, we will provide guidance on how to choose the right Viking helm to suit your needs and preferences.

Measuring Head Circumference

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For a Viking headpiece to fit correctly, accurate measurement of the head circumference is crucial. Here’s how to measure your head circumference:

  1. Wrap a flexible, non-stretchable measuring tape around your head just above the ears.
  2. Position the tape approximately one inch above the eyebrows, which is typically the widest part of the head.
  3. Take note of the measurement.

Once you have your head circumference measurement, you can use it to select the appropriate helmet size for optimal comfort and protection.

Choosing a Style

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Given the variety of Viking headgear styles like the Gjermundbu and Norman helmets, along with those made from leather or featuring chainmail aventails, it’s vital to select a style that resonates with your personal taste and is historically accurate.

Consider factors such as the materials used, the level of protection provided, and the overall appearance of the helmet when making your decision.

Budget Considerations

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When budgeting for a Viking helm, consider the type of material used, the level of protection it provides, and the overall cost. Authentic Viking helmets can be quite expensive, whereas replica helmets offer a more affordable option with a realistic appearance.

For those on a tight budget, costume Viking helmets are the most economical choice but may not be as accurate as authentic or replica helmets.

Viking Helmets in Modern Culture

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Beyond their historical significance, Viking helmets continue to have a presence in modern culture, appearing in media representations and being used in reenactments and living history events.

We will now study the significance of Viking helmets in our contemporary world and their role in preserving and elucidating Viking culture.

Media Representations: Viking Helmet

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The portrayal of Viking helmets in movies, television, and other media has had a significant impact on public perception, often perpetuating the myth of horned helmets.

Despite the lack of historical evidence supporting the existence of horned helmets, their image remains popular and is often associated with the fierce warrior archetype of the Vikings.

Reenactments and Living History Events

Viking helmets play a crucial role in reenactments and living history events, accurately portraying the look and feel of the Viking era and helping participants connect with the culture.

For example, such events include modern-day Viking festivals, training in Viking combat, and workshops on crafting Viking helmets and other accessories.

These events are essential for preserving and understanding Viking culture, providing an immersive experience for those who wish to delve into the world of the Vikings.

Summary: Viking Helmet

We have explored the fascinating world of Viking helmets, debunking the myth of horned helmets and examining their types, features, and cultural significance.

By understanding the historical context and genuine appearance of Viking helmets, we can appreciate their importance in Viking culture and continued relevance in modern times.

As we continue to uncover more about the Vikings and their way of life, we are reminded of the power of myths and the importance of seeking the truth behind them.

Frequently Asked Questions: Viking Helmet

Is it true that Viking helmets had horns?

It is unlikely that Vikings wore horned helmets, as the two surviving helmets are in the shape of curved or peaked helms made from four plates.

Moreover, Viking society only developed in the 9th century C.E., and there is no evidence to suggest that they wore horned helmets. The legend likely originated with Scandinavian artists in the 1800s.

What is a Viking helmet called?

The Gjermundbu helmet is a Viking Age helmet that was found in nine different fragments and was later restored. It featured a peaked cap shape made of four iron plates. Today, you can find the Gjermundbu helmets at the University of Oslo – Museum of Cultural History, Norway.

How was a Viking helmet constructed?

Viking helmets were typically constructed out of iron and steel, with additional elements of leather and chainmail aventails for increased protection. They were known for their blacksmithing skills and their ability to add extreme detail to each piece of armor.

What is the cultural significance of a Viking helmet?

Viking helmets are symbols of strength, bravery, and warrior identity that embody Viking culture. They also feature in rituals and ceremonies, making them culturally significant.

If you found this article interesting, check out our article on Viking swords next!

author avatar
William Conroy Editor in Chief
Meet William. He graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in History, concentrating on global and comparative history. He has spent his lifetime researching and studying everything related to ancient history, civilizations, and mythology. He is fascinated with exploring the rich history of every region on Earth, diving headfirst into ancient societies and their beliefs. His curiosity about how ancient civilizations viewed the world and how those views affected their belief systems and behaviors is what drives him.