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Hypothetical reconstruction of the Avar helmet found in the Zlín region

Michal Pavlišta, group Sklaveni

In 2018, a find of a helmet and lamellar armour was presented to the public as part of the exhibition “Seekers of Lost Time” in the Museum of Southeast Moravia in Zlín. This find of European significance was discovered by detectorists on the steep southwestern slope of Rysov hill in 2015 and subsequently went to hands of archaeologists. Thank them for that! To date, the helmet has been published only once, briefly (Čižmář et al. 2019: 191).

Unfortunately, I nocited the discovery retrospectively, so I could visit the exhibition. The only information I had was based on my own reading of photos from the exhibition, made by journalists.

Photo source: Dalibor Glück, ČTK.

Photo source: Museum of Southeast Moravia.

The contacted curator of the exhibition, Dr. Jana Langová, added some information to what was evident from the photos. The find, which is now stored in the Otrokovice depository, will be published in more detail by Dr. Langová, whom we thank for the information provided.

Today, the helmet dome consists of four triangular segments, whose height is 17-18 cm and width is approximately 13.2 cm. The edges of the segments are not significantly shaped in the photographs, and visual classification based on them is therefore not possible (see Kubik 2017). The very top of the segments below the socket is tapered. Typologically, it would be possible to classify the helmet as a pear-shaped spangenhelmets with an eight-part dome, while the most similar specimens could be helmets from Lagerevo (Mažitov 1977: 30, Табл. I, 236) and the Astrakhan region (Papakin 2017: Рис. 3.8). Dr. Langová is of the opinion that the helmet consisted of six segments. From our point of view, this is a less likely variant, however, until the helmet is more thoroughly published, we trust her description as she had the opportunity to personally inspect the object.

The riveting of the segments was made with more than five pieces of rivets with mushroom heads and a relatively uniform spacing. The rivets are made of copper alloy, which is not a unique feature – in some cases the rivets are completely made of non-ferrous alloy (Bežta helmet), other times they are ferrous and coated with non-ferrous sheet metal (Stolbišče helmet). The helmet has holes around the edge, related to the attachment of the lining or aventail. The frequency of holes appears to be at least 4 pcs / segment. The holes of the edge are smaller than the rivet holes between the segments. At the lower edge of one segment, three distinctive rivets are visible, which could come from a T-shaped nasal. Nasals of this shape were found on a number of helmets of 7th-8th century, let’s name helmets from Lagerevo, Kazazovo (Kubik 2016: 92, Fig. 12), Perm Museum (Kubik 2016: Fig. 5), Bežta and Stolbišče (Kainov 2017). The top of the dome was covered with a socket, which is completely or partially missing today.

The dating presented by the museum staff and Čižmář’s publication suggests its use in the 8th century (Čižmář et al. 2019: 191). The mentioned analogies from the Lagerevo and Astrakhan region can be put to the turn of 7th-8th century. Parts of the lamellar armor from the same site have parallels from the site Kunszentmartón, Hungary, 7th century (Csallány 1933: Pl. V). Both militaria can be explained by Avar activities.

One of the few depictions of an Avar warrior. The vase from Nagyszentmiklós hoard, 7th century.
Taken from László – Rácz 1977: 2. kép.


Attempt

As indicated above, any reproduction is purely hypothetical prior to detailed publication. During the production, which was carried out by the blacksmith Halfdan – Filip Turek, we followed the description of Langová, which may or may not turn out to be wrong in the future. A T-shaped nasal was mounted on the dome, which corresponds in shape to the helmet from Kazazovo. The top of the helmet was covered with a cup-shaped socket, which has a number of parallels in 6th-7th century (namely lamellar helmets) and which is equipped with a stick to which a plume of horsehair is attached. A leather belt is sewn to the holes at the edge of the dome, on which an aventail hangs. Remains of mails from the territory of Bohemia in the 8th century are known, for example, from the Rubín hill (Profantová – Stolz 2006: 175). The aventail reaches the shoulders, is lined with fabric and covers the neck, similarly to the helmet from Kazazovo. Multi-segment helmets with a socket are a proposed type of head protection for the territory of the Czech Republic in the academic literature (Galuška 1991: 57).

As part of the costume, the helmet is combined with a short mail, a boss-less shield with a painting of the so-called “Hluk orant” (Galuška 2004: 42), a one-handed spear and a belt with Avar set (see Zábojník 1991). As this is a not very well-known period, I would like to note that there has been a significant breakthrough in the academic field of Avar culture in the Czech Republic in the last 30 years, which was mainly advocated by Naďa Profantová. In 1992, when she published her first large-scale work, Avar culture seemed rare, imported and associated with elites in Bohemia, but now we know that it is exactly the opposite and that Avar material culture was relatively common in Bohemia and was produced there. (Profantová 1992; Profantová et al. 2020).

In conclusion, I would like to thank the blacksmith Filip Turek for creating the helmet and to you for reading this text.

Representation of a rich Czech warrior from the 8th century.


Bibliography

Csallány, Dezső (1933). A kunszentmártoni avarkori ötvössír, Szentes.

Čižmář, Ivan et al. (2019). Detektorová prospekce na výšinné lokalitě Rysov u Provodova (okr. Zlín) v roce 2017. In: Vlastivedný zborník Považia XXIX, Žilina, 189-210.

Galuška, Luděk (1991). Velká Morava, Brno.

Galuška, Luděk (2004). Slované – doteky předků. O životě na Moravě v 6.-10. století, Brno.

Kainov, S. Y. (2017). The Helmet from Krasnodar Territory. In: Maksymiuk, K. – Karamian, G. (eds). Crowns, hats, turbans and helmets The headgear in Iranian history volume I: Pre-Islamic Period, Siedlce-Tehran, 255-261.

Kubik, A. L. (2016). Introduction to studies on late Sasanian protective armour. The Yarysh-Mardy helmet. In: Historia I Świat 5, Siedlce, 77-105.

Kubik, A. L. (2017). Hełmy Azji Południowo-Zachodniej pomiędzy VI – VIII w.n.e. Zarys problematyki, Siedlce.

László, Gyula – Rácz, István (1977). Der Goldschatz von Nagyszentmiklós, Budapest

Mažitov 1977 = Мажитов, Н. А. (1977). Южный Урал в VII-XIV вв., Москва.

Papakin 2017 = Папакін, Артем (2017). Шоломи у контексті східних контактів Русі та Польщі (X–початок XI ст.) // Історія давньої зброї. Дослідження 2016. Відп. ред. М. Ф. Дмитрієнко et al., Київ, 351–366.

Profantová, Naďa (1992). Awarische Funde aus den Gebieten nördlich der awarischen Siedlungsgrenzen. In: Daim, Falko (ed.). Awarenforschungen II, Wien, 605-778.

Profantová, Naďa et al. (2020). Tismice jako produkční a nadregionální centrum Čech 8. a 9. století. In: Památky archeologické CXI, 193–271.

Profantová, Naďa – Stolz, Daniel (2006). Chronologie a význam hradiště Rubín u Podbořan ve světle nových raně středověkých nálezů. In: Archaeologia historica 31, 165-180.

Zábojník, Josef (1991). Seriation von Gürtelbeschlaggarnituren aus dem Gebiet der Slowakei und Österreichs (Beitrag zur Chronologie der Zeit des awarischen Kaganats. In: K problematike osídlenia stredodunajskej oblasti vo včasnom stredoveku, Nitra, 219-321.

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