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Home > Auctions > 9th September 2015 > Viking Age 'Golden Horde' Gilded Helmet

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LOT 2131

GBP (£) 20,000 - 30,000
EUR (€) 23,680 - 35,520
USD ($) 25,530 - 38,300

11 1/2" (1.4 kg, 29cm high).

A bell-shaped helmet of Kirpichnikov’s Type II comprising four triangular iron plates with gilded copper-leaf to the outer surfaces, the front and rear plates covering the rivetted joints with the side plates; each side plate with an attached silver repoussé quatrefoil plaque with scrolled tendril ornament; open at the apex to accept a separately formed cone or spiked dome.

Property of an English gentleman; acquired by his grandfather in the 1950s; thence by descent, 1976.

Cf. Kirpichnikov Drevnerusskoe Oruzhie III: Dospech, Kompleks Boevych Sredstv IX-XIII vv., in Arkheologiia SSSR, vol. E1-36, ‘Nauka’, Leningrad, 1971; E. Lenz In Russland gefundene frühmittterliche Helme. in ZWK NF Bd I (10) Beiheft, Berlin, 1-17. E. Lenz Hjalmar fran tidig medeltid, funna Rusland in Avhandlingar, Stockholm, 1919; W. Arendt Der Nomadenhelm des frühen Mittelalters in Osteuropa, in ZWK, NF, vol. 5, Berlin 1935.

The helmet would have been worn in conjunction with a soft woollen liner, or perhaps a separate padded wool and leather arming cap. The typology of early Russian and Slavonic helmets was established in the 1970s, based on the work of Lenz in the early 20th century. The forms of helmet divide into pre-Mongol and post-Mongol types, referring to the 12th century period of political and military upheavals. The pre-Mongol forms are characterised as 'sphaeroconical', meaning that the rounded bowl tapers to a conical upper section, often topped with a spike. Such helmets were long-lived in eastern Europe, whereas in western Europe the simpler conical form prevailed (such as the helmets depicted on the Bayeux tapestry). Likewise, the four-plate construction method, which dates back to at least late Roman times in western Europe, remained a popular and robust format. This type would form the basis for the later shishak helmets of eastern Europe with a rivetted nasal plate and often a face-plate.

The closest parallels include the example from Mokroe, Ukraine, dated to circa 1000 AD, and one of the two helmets found in the late 10th century Chernaia Mogila (“Black Grave”) burial mound in Chernigov, Ukraine, along with a large group of weapons. These helmets had a four-piece riveted dome made so that the front and back plates extend over the side plates, and the edges of these outer plates have a wavy or scallopped profile with rivets along the edge. The Chernaia Mogila helmet is surmounted by a spike and the surface is covered with gilded copper sheathing, while on the Mokroe example the spike is absent. On the front plate there are traces of three ferrous leaf-shaped strips. In the centre of each side plate there is a four-sided plaque with a knop to the middle. In the area where the strips and rectangular plaques meet with the surface of the helmet, there is a gilded copper edging with double rows of impressions made from the inside.