The helmet from Tjele

The fragment of the helmet from Tjele. Author: Arnold Mikkelsen, Nationalmuseet. Taken from the catalogue of National Museum of Denmark.

In 1850, an extraordinary find was discovered by a young farmer in the forest called Lindum Storskov, near Tjele, Denmark. The find consisted of a set of blacksmith equipment – two anvils, five hammers, three tongs, sheet metal shears, two files, a wedge, two nail headers, casting bowls (with traces of tin and lead), a small touchstone, a set of scales, nine weights, five sickles, a key, three iron nails, an axe, two jingles, a spearhead/arrowhead, bronze wires, a lid of a box for scales, bone and bronze fragments of a casket, a mount of a drinking horn, iron fragments and pieces of a helmet (Leth-Larsen 1984; Lund 2006: 325). Thanks to local authorities, the set was sent to Copenhagen, where it was analyzed. The find was published three times – in 1858 (Boye 1858), then in 1939 (Ohlhaver 1939) and finally in 1984 (Munksgaard 1984; Leth-Larsen 1984).

tjele

Some other objects from the find from Tjele. Taken from Boye 1858: Pl. II–IV.

The helmet fragment is a very interesting object, that was originally interpreted as a saddle mount. It was Elisabeth Munksgaard, who expressed the theory about the helmet. Still, it is rather an overlooked artefact that was never studied in detail nor scientifically reconstructed. That’s the reason why this article was written.

Munksgaard sums up several important details:

This winged-shaped object is not a saddle mounting, but the eyebrows and nose-gueard of a helmet, made of iron and bronze. […] We are, unfortunately, not able to judge what the Tjele helmet looked like. There is not a trace of chain mail rest of the helmet, nor any iron plates fit for making up the rest of the helmet. But there are eight fragments of thin iron strips, about 1 cm broad and of varying length which might have been used for joining the plates together.” (Munksgaard 1984: 87)

More than detailed description, her article includes the comparison with the helmet from Gjermundbu. Since she considers the helmet from Gjermundbu to be the closest analogy, it is obvious she interprets the fragment as a part of a spectacle low-domed helmet. This type of helmets was used until 1000 AD (Munksgaard 1984: 88). The dating of the find from Tjele was corrected by Lund (2006: 325, 339), who claims the set belongs to the period between 950–970 AD. Tweedle (1992: 1126) assumed that the mask was multi-pieced; two ocular pieces were riveted to the nasal. The hole in the broader piece of the nasal could support this theory. Moreover, the mask from Kyiv shows the same feature.

The size of the mask is not convincingly given, but both Munksgaard and Tweedle suggest it is 12 × 7 cm (Munksgaard 1984: 87, fig. 4; Tweedle 1992: 1128, fig. 561). Just in the middle of eyebrows, at the base of the nasal, a hole for a rivet is placed. At least one decorated bronze strip was mounted on the eyebrows. It seems that entire eyebrows were symmetrically covered by bronze strips like this one. As a result, the mask was a distictive feature of the helmet, as can be observed in cases of other helmets too (Gjermundbu, Lokrume, Kyiv or St. Wenceslas helmet).

Regarding the construction, we can not say much. Munksgaard gives the information about eight fragments of narrow bands, which makes it possible to imagine that the helmet could have the similar construction as the helmet from Gjermundbu. The dome of the helmet of Gjermundbu is formed by four triangular-shaped plates. Under the gap between each two plates, there is a narrow flat band, which is riveted to a somewhat curved band located above the gap between each two plates. In the nape-forehead direction, the flat band is formed by a single piece, that is extended in the middle (on the top of the helmet) and forms the base for the spike. There are two flat bands in the lateral direction. Triangular-shaped plates are riveted to each corner of the extended part of the nape-forehead band. A broad band, with visible profiled line, is riveted to the rim of the dome. Two rings were connected to the very rim of the broad band, probably remnants of the aventail. In the front, the decorated mask is riveted onto the broad band.

The scheme of the helmet. Made by Tomáš Vlasatý and Tomáš Cajthaml.

The scheme of the helmet of Gjermundbu. Made by Tomáš Vlasatý and Tomáš Cajthaml.

Even though the mask from Tjele is just a fragment, we can not underestimate the meaning of this find. It broadens our vision about Viking Age protective gear, its decoration and the makers. Recently, two of my friends have tried to replicate the helmet fragment from Tjele. The reconstruction of the complete helmet is impossible, but I personally think that these both versions are decent and plausible tries that should be accepted by reenactment community.

First, let’s have a look on the work of Dmitry Hramtsov. The dome of this version is based on Vendel Period helmets. Since multi-pieced masks are typical for pre-Viking helmets, such a dome seems to be understandable. Metal bands are, however, much wider than those found in Tjele. The eyebrows are decorated with 14 bronze strips.

 

The second try is the helmet made by Konstantin Shiryaev and Maxim Teryoshin. In this case, the dome is based on the helmet from Gjermundbu. Konstantin used 16 bronze strips.


Bibliography:

Boye, V. (1858). To fund af smedeværktøi fra den sidste hedenske tid i Danmark (Thiele-Fundet og Snoldelev-Fundet). In: Annaler for Nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie, København: 191–200.

Leth-Larsen, B. (1984). Selected objects from the stock of the Tjele smith. In: Offa 41, Neumünster: 91–96.

Lund, J. (2006). Vikingetidens værktøjskister i landskab og mytologi (Viking Period tool chests in the landscape and in mythology). In: Fornvännen 101, Stockholm: 323–341.

Munksgaard, E. (1984). A Viking Age smith, his tools and his stock-in-trade. In: Offa 41, Neumünster: 85–89.

Ohlhaver, H. (1939). Der germanische Schmied und sein Werkzeug. Hamburger Schriften zur Vorgeschichte und Germanischen Frühgeschichte, Band 2, Leipzig.

Tweddle, D. (1992). The Anglian Helmet from 16-22 Coppergate, The Archaeology of York. The Small Finds AY 17/8, York.

“The man from Voll”

volls

Drawn reconstruction of a man from between 850–950 AD. Based on graves from central Norway, including the grave from Voll. Taken from Hjardar, Kim – Vike, Vegard (2011). Vikinger i krig, Oslo, p. 47.

After a month of hard work, I would like to present my article named “The man from Voll : An example of a well-preserved Norwegian male grave“. In this short article, I provided a summary of the rich and well-preserved content of the 10th century inhumation mound from Voll, Overhalla municipality, Nord-Trøndelag county, Norway. The work is supplemented with an abundant catalogue and short reports about the making of spear sheath replicas (Are Pedersen) and a cross-shaped dress pin recreation Roman Král). The article summarizes organic objects in Viking Age graves and suggests how these objects could have been used in the everyday life.

The article can be downloaded by the following button. I hope you will enjoy reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund me via Patreon or Paypal (ceskyreenactment@gmail.com). Thank you!

Scandinavian helmets of the 10th century

In this article, we will have a short look at evidences of helmets used in Scandinavia during the 10th century. Pictures of modern replicas are added as well.

Spectacle helmets:

Nasal helmets:

Unknown types:

Russian helmets in Scandinavia:

Conclusion

Bibliography


Spectacle helmets

Gnëzdovo

Object, context A head on the sacrificial (or weaving?) knife from Gnëzdovo, Russia, mound number 74. 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description The head is rather schematic. Fechner writes, that the head is covered with a helmet that has typical hemisphere shape with spectacle mask. No visible spike on the top, no visible decoration. Sizov´s picture shows rather a head with beard.
Literature Fechner 1965; Sizov 1902: 91, Fig. 59, 60.

 

Gjermundbu

Object, context The only complete Viking Age helmet found in Gjermundbu mound 1, Norway. 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description The dome is made from 4 pieces connected with 4 quadrant ribs of semicircular section. There is a spike on the top and a plate connected to the rim of the dome. The mask is from one piece, is decorated with silvar inlay and is riveted to the plate. There are some traces of the rings on the plate, indicating that a kind of neck guard was used.
Literature Grieg 1947; Tweddle 1992: 1125-1128; Vlasatý 2016

 

Tjele

 

Object, context A mask fragment found among the forging equipment in Tjele, Denmark 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description Iron mask decorated with bronze plates. The nasal is broken. It is possible there were some rivets on the nasal, indicating the mask was made from several pieces.
Literature Kirpichnikov 1973Tweddle 1992. 1126, 1128; Vlasatý 2015b.

 

Kyiv

Object, context A mask from a helmet found in Desjatinna Church in Kyiv, Ukraine. 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description Iron mask decorated with silver and gold coating and silver inlay. The nasal is broken. It is sure there were some rivets on the nasal, indicating the mask was made from several pieces. Some people suggest reversed position of the mask.
Literature Kirpichnikov 1973Tweddle 1992. 1126, 1129.

 

Nasal helmets

Middleton

Object, context A Scandinavian (Anglo-Scandinavian?) warrior depicted on the Middleton Cross B, England. 10th century.
Description The head is rather schematic. The helmet has conical shape with integral nasal. No visible decoration.
Literature Graham-Campbell 1980: cat. no. 537.

 

Prague

Object, context The so-called helmet of Saint Wenceslaus. The nasal and the rim are probably of Gotlandic origin, 2nd half of the 10th century, the dome is later addition (but the original dome might be similar).
Description Both nasal and rim are decorated with silver inlay and coating. The decoration of the rim resembles the piece from Lokrume. The figure on the nasal is important example of mixing pagan religion with Christianity.
Literature Hejdová 1964.

 

Unknown types

Lokrume

Object, context A mask fragment from a helmet found in Lokrume, Gotland. 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description Iron fragment richly decorated with silver and copper inlay/overlay. The nasal is broken. It is impossible to claim whether the fragment belonged to spectacle or nasal helmets.
Literature Lindqvist 1925; Vlasatý 2015c.

 

Birka

Object, context A fragment of what could be an aventail holder. Found in the hall in Birka, 950 – 970 AD.
Description Gilded iron plate with teeth on one side. A hole for the rivet is visible. This fragment could be used as an aventail holder that can be seen on some early medieval helmets.
Literature Vlasatý 2015a.

 

Russian helmets in Scandinavia

Birka

Object, context Fragments of what could be a Russian helmet. Found in the hall of Birka. 950-970 AD.
Description Two gilded fragments decorated with birds and a flower and one tinned bronze conus. Rests of silvers and iron rivets are still present. It is impossible to claim whether these fragments belonged to one or two helmets.
Literature Holmquist Olausson – Petrovski 2007; Vlasatý 2014.

 

Conclusion

The number of the evidence is sufficient to claim there were 3 types of helmets in Scandinavia during the 10th century. Spectacle helmet was the most dominant and traditional type, nasal helmets probably represent a new Continental fashion and Russian helmets (like spectacle helmets in Gnëzdovo and Kyiv) form the evidence of close relations between Eastern Europe and Eastern Scandinavia. Spectacle helmets were used until 1000 AD, conical helmets with nasals became widespread in the 11th century (Munksgaard 1984: 88).

It has to be stressed that all examples are richly decorated – we can not find any proof of undecorated examples. Undecorated helmets used in 10th century reenactment are rather a reeenactism. Even the nasal of the Saint Wenceslaus helmet is decorated, even though there is no other proof of decorated conical helmet with a nasal. The tradition of helmet decoration has to be seen as important; it is obvious that decorated masks had been used to terrify oponents and to show exceptional status.

We can not see any cheek guards or chainmail aventails on masks – these devices were used on finds from different centuries and were not used in the 10th century.

Old Norse literature, mainly skaldic poetry, can bring some interesting facts as well. For example, Norwegian king Hákon the Good († 961 AD) was buried with his “gilded” helmet and another pieces of gear and his skald Eyvindr praises his arrival to Valhǫll, where he refuses to hand off his equipment.

Many authors claimed there is almost no evidence because of the weight of helmets. However, the true reason of this is that helmets were very expensive and were worn only by nobles and their retinues.

In case of deeper interest, I reccomend my further work, Grafnir hjálmar : A Comment on the Viking Age Helmets, Their Developement and Usage (in Czech).

Bibliography

FECHNER, Maria V. (1965). О ≪скрамасаксе≫ из Гнёздова // Новое в советской археологии, Москва, 260–262.

GRAHAM-CAMPBELL, James (1980). Viking Artefacts: A Select Catalogue, London.

GRIEG, Sigurd (1947). Gjermundbufunnet : en høvdingegrav fra 900-årene fra Ringerike, Oslo.

HEJDOVÁ, Dagmar (1964). Přilba zvaná „svatováclavská“. Sborník Národního muzea v Praze, A 18, č. 1–2, Praha.

HOLMQUIST OLAUSSON, Lena – PETROVSKI, Slavica (2007). Curious birds – two helmet (?) mounts with a christian motif from Birka’s Garrison. In: FRANSSON, Ulf (ed). Cultural interaction between east and west, Stockholm, 231–238.

KALMRING, Sven (2014). A conical bronze boss and Hedeby´s Eastern connection. In: Fornvännen 109, 1–11, Stockholm. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/6845231/A_conical_bronze_boss_and_Hedebys_Eastern_connection

KIRPIČNIKOV, Anatolij N. (1971). Древнерусское оружие: Вып. 3. Доспех, комплекс боевых средств, IX–XIII вв.// АН СССР, Москва.

LINDQVIST, Sune (1925). Vendelhjälmarnas ursprung. In: Fornvännen 20, Stockholm, 181–207. Available at: http://samla.raa.se/xmlui/bitstream/handle/raa/796/1925_181.pdf?sequence=1

MUNKSGAARD, Elisabeth (1984). A Viking Age smith, his tools and his stock-in-trade. In: Offa 41, Neumünster, 85–89.

SIZOV, Vladimír I. (1902). Курганы Смоленской губернии I. Гнездовский могильник близ Смоленска. Материалы по археологии России 28, Санкт-Петербург.

TWEDDLE, Dominic (1992). The Anglian Helmet from 16-22 Coppergate, The Archaeology of York. The Small Finds AY 17/8, York.

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2014). Fragmenty přilby z Birky. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [cit. 2016-01-03]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/fragmenty-prilby-z-birky/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2015a). Další fragment přilby z Birky. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [cit. 2016-01-03]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/dalsi-fragment-prilby-z-birky/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2015b). The helmet from Tjele. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [cit. 2016-01-03]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/the-helmet-from-tjele/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2015c). The helmet from Lokrume. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [quoted 2016-11-21]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/the-helmet-from-lokrume-gotland/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2016). The helmet from Gjermundbu. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [quoted 2016-11-21]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/the-helmet-from-gjermundbu/

Inspiromat #7, žena z Novgorodu

Po krátké odmlce pokračujeme s inspiromatem. Tentokrát se podíváme na mladou ruskou reenactorku Jevgenii Andrejevnu ze skupiny Bílý Rys (Белая Рысь).

Jevgenija se snaží reprezentovat slovanskou ženu z Novgorodu v období od poloviny 10. po začátek 11. století. Vzhledem k absenci textilu jde o složitou rekonstrukci, která se z větší míry zakládá na nalezených špercích. Reenactorka dodává, že má dva kostýmy – jednodušší (na práci) a honosnější. Jednoduché šaty na práci a spodní šaty jsou vyrobeny ze lnu a jsou přepásané vlněným opaskem s křížovým motivem. Na opasku je zavěšený nůž a další nástroje. Nohy jsou chráněny nízkými vyšívanými botami podle nálezu z Novgorodu (viz Изюмова С.А. К истории кожевенного и сапожного ремесел Новгорода Великого // Материалы и исследования по археологии СССР, Вып. 65. Труды Новгородской археологической экспедиции, т.II, М., 1959).

Honosnější kostým obsahuje navíc vlněný kabát s hedvábným lemováním, (vypůjčený) plášť s potiskem, který byl již zmíněn v Inspiromatu 4, nebo plášť lemovaný kožešinou a modré hedvábné šaty s potiskem. Důležitou složkou kostýmu jsou pokrývky hlavy – hedvábné červené či růžové šátky fixované čelenkou z kůže a hedvábí, na níž jsou připevněné sladkovodní perly. Na čelence jsou připevněné repliky charakteristických mosazných kroužků a závěsků (Jevgenija dodává, že se chystá kupovat stříbrné varianty, které jsou vhodnější). Ty se spolu s náhrdelníky (korálky s lunetou) a ostatními šperky zakládají na nálezech z Novgorodu (viz Седова М.В. Ювелирные изделия древнего Новгорода X-XV вв., М., 1981).

 

Za poskytnutí fotek a za detailní popis svého kostýmu děkuji Jevgenii Andrejevně.


I would like to thank Evgenia Andreevna for granting me permission to use her photographs and for detailed description of her costume.