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The nasal of the helmet from Stromovka

In connection with the creation of the Catalog of European helmets of 9th-12th century, I examined both helmets from Stromovka during the installation of the new permanent exhibition of the National Museum on 24th November 2021. To my surprise, the nasal is not part of the exhibition and therefore could not be examined. Its documentation took place in the Terezín deposit on 22nd June 2022 in the presence of curator Tomáš Sekyrka. In accordance with museum rules, I will not publish photos and the following study will only contain already published images and my drawing.

Stromovka’s position on the map of Europe.


Finding situation and current position

During earthworks in the Royal Game Reserve – Stromovka in 1938, workers came across a hoard, consisting of two identical helmets with aventails, a mail, ring, leather and metal fragments. The size of the finds indicate that the helmets were inserted into each other and the mail was stored inside the smaller helmet. In the past, I published armour in the article The mail from Stromovka, Prague, Czechia.

The find was reported to the Archaeological Institute in Prague, which handed over the hoard to the National Museum the same year. The complete find belongs to the Department of Older Czech History (Oddělení starších českých dějin). The nasal bears the inventory number H2-60754 (formerly dep. no. 1149) and according to the literature it belongs to helmet no. 2 (smaller, inner), whose helmet dome has the inventory number H2-60752 (formerly dep. no. 1150). The nasal is stored in the Terezín deposit and has been published a total of three times (Bravermanová et al. 2019: 265, 269-270, Obr. 57; Hejdová 1964: 50-1; Šnajdrová 2014: 31-2, Obr. 3).

Due to the nature of the find, the hoard has long been dated between 7th-12th century in the past (Hejdová 1964: 49-54; Klučina – Marsina – Romaňák 1985: 70). It is no longer possible to support such dating. With the growing body of helmets (Kainov 2019: 189-191, Рис. 71; Macháček et al. 2021: 160, 440, 670; Pieta 2015: 27-30, Obr. 17.1-2; Macků – Pilná 2021) it is shown that the dating of this group narrows to the 3rd third of the 9th century and the 1st half of the 10th century, as noted by Profantová (2016: 134). Helmets can be classified in the late Great Moravian period and After-Great Moravian horizon.

The nasal from Stromovka. Source: Šnajdrová 2014: 32, Fig. 3.
Higher resolution: Národní muzeum – Historické muzeum, www.esbirky.cz.

Photo of the back of the nasal from Stromovka. Source: Bravermanová et al. 2019: Obr. 57.

Drawing of the back of the nasal from Stromovka. Source: Hejdová 1964: 50.


Description

We get our hands on a nasal that takes on the shape of the letter T from the front and is bent in both directions in such a way as to copy the shape of the edge of the helmet and the wearer’s nose. The nasal is made in one piece and shows no signs of non-ferrous metal being used. It has a solid yet subtle impression of a well-preserved artifact, only the edges are partially corroded.

The length of the horizontal beam from the front view is 14.25 cm (according to Šnajdrová 14 cm), while the length in the arch on the outside is 16.3 cm (according to Hejdová 16.5 cm), 15.8 cm on the inside. The upper edge of the beam is straight, but the lower edge of the beam’s arms (placed above the wearer’s eyes) tends to widen towards the center, which has the sole purpose of copying the curvature of the eyebrows and providing better protection for the bridge of the nose. The complete height of the artifact reaches 7.83 cm (according to Hejdová and Šnajdrová, 7.9 cm). Item weight: 94 g. The nose guard is 6.2 cm long, 1.48 cm wide at the narrowest point (according to Hejdová 1.5 cm) and towards the end it widens to approximately 1.6 cm (according to Hejdová 1.7 cm). Compared to a man’s face, the nose guard is long enough to reach the tip of the nose, is very narrow and does not obstruct the view. The arms of the beam are so long that they end at the level of the zygomatic bones. When viewed from the side, the upper part of the nose guard has a vertical orientation at a length of 1.1 cm, while the lower part is bent by up to 20° in relation to the upper part. At the end of the nasal, there is a small, 0.35 cm wide and 0.2 cm long, arrow-shaped projection, which resembles a similar structure on the nasla of the St. Wenceslas helmet, where it is interpreted as a possible hook that was filed (Bravermanová et al. 2019: 288). The hook is used on the nasal of a similar helmet from the Kozel castle (Macků – Pilná 2021).

On the visible side of both lines of the nasal, there is a small spine marking the thickest part in the middle, while the nasal slopes slightly towards the edges. The inner side is smooth. The nose protection has a relatively constant thickness of up to 0.35 cm, which also applies to the center of the horizontal beam. The ends of this beam are thinned to a thickness of 0.21 cm. The nasal was attached to the dome of the helmet using rivets, which were placed at the level of the spine in the center of the horizontal beam. There were at least five rivets on the nasal. On personal inspection, I got the impression that the original number may have been higher, and for that reason an X-ray analysis is needed. On the visible side, traces of rivets are hardly visible, in contrast to the more readable inner side, whose drawing Hejdová published in her work. The spacing of the rivets was not regular; if we name the rivets N1-N5 from left to right when looking at the inside, the spacing is as follows: N1-N2 = 3.075 cm, N2-N3 = 3.381 cm, N3-N4 = 4.765 cm, N4-N5 = 2.799 cm. Only 0.23 cm diameter holes are still visible from the rivets, although the N2 hole appears to still be filled with a rivet shank. Hole N3 is not perfectly centered in the center of the nasal.

An approximate drawn reconstruction of the nasal from Stromovka.
Author: Michal Havelka, baba_jaga_atelier.

T-shaped nasals seem to be commonly used on helmets of the Stromovka group. Hejdová’s documentation suggests that the Stromovka hoard contained one smaller fragment of the second nasal (Hejdová 1964: 51), which cannot be traced at the present time. The torso of the nasal was also preserved in grave Дн-86/Серг-1901 from Gnězdovo (Kainov 2019: 189). On the front side of the helmet, the nasal was probably attached to the perimeter band with three or four rivets. To this day, only its horizontal beam survived with a total length of 12 cm and a central height of 1.8 cm. The arms of the nasal were equipped with a central spine. The nose guard, leaving only a 2.3 cm wide stump, was removed before the helmet was placed in the grave. The closest analogy to the nasal we examined is the face protection of the helmet from Bojná (Pieta 2015: 27-30, Fig. 17.1), which has an identical shape, central spines and number of rivets. The helmet from Bojná is similar to helmet no. 2 from Stromovka in other respects as well. It is not without interest to mention that the upper edge of the nasal is leveled to the same level as the aventail holder, which is almost touching the arm ends of the nasal.

The helmet from Bojná. Source: Pieta 2015: Obr. 17.1.

The nasal that is part of the helmet discovered at Kozel Castle (Macků – Pilná 2021) maintains a certain resemblance to the nasal from Stromovka. The 0.1-0.3 cm thick nasal is T-shaped, 13 cm long and 2.1 cm wide. The nose guard is approximately 5.7 cm long and has a constant width of 1.8 cm. The nasal, whose arms follow the roundness of the helmet and which is curved to continue the line of the dome, is finished with a 0.8 cm high hook with a maximum thickness of 0.5 × 0.4 cm, the tip of which is located up to 1 cm from the main part of the nosepiece. The center of the arms of the nasal is reinforced with a discreet center spine. The nasal was attached to the helmet with at least five rivets. On the surface, we find decoration made of pairs of arrows, between which there are tiny depressions, which were probably filled with a contrasting coloured metal.

The helmet from Kozel Castle. Source: Macků – Pilná 2021: Obr. 7.


Acknowledgement

The examination of the helmet and its components in 2021-2 would not have been possible without the curators of the National Museum, namely Jiří Košta and Tomáš Sekyrka, whom I hereby thank for their willingness. Thanks also go to Michal Havelka (baba_jaga_atelier), who is the author of the drawing.

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Bibliography

Bravermanová, M. – Havlínová, A. – Ledvina, P. – Perlík, D. (2019). Nová zjištění o přilbě a zbroji zv. svatováclavské. In: Archeologie ve středních Čechách 23, 235–310.

Hejdová, Dagmar (1964). Přilba zvaná „svatováclavská“. In: Sborník Národního muzea v Praze, A 18, no. 1–2, 1–106.

Kainov 2019 = Каинов, С. Ю. (2019). Сложение комплекса вооружения Древней Руси X – начала XI в. (по материалам Гнёздовского некрополя и поселения). Диссертация на соискание ученой степени кандидата исторических наук, Том I, Москва. 7

Klučina, P. – Marsina, R. – Romaňák, A. (1985). Vojenské dějiny Československa, 1. díl (do roku 1526), Praha.

Macháček et al. (2021). Břeclav – Pohansko X. Sídelní areál na Severovýchodním předhradí. Archeologické výzkumy v letech 2008-2016, Brno.

Macků, Pavel – Pilná, Veronika (2021). An early-medieval helmet of the Stromovka-Gnezdovo-Bojná type from the collections of the Kozel chateau. In: Archaeologia historica 46, 2, 445-466.

Pieta, Karol (2015). Včasnostredoveké mocenské centrum Bojná – výskumy v rokoch 2007–2013. In: Pieta, K. – Robak, Z. (eds.). Bojná 2 – Nové výsledky výskumov včasnostredovekých hradísk, Nitra, 9–49.

Profantová, Naďa (2016). Chronologie časně slovanského a starohradištního osídlení Čech na příkladu Prahy a jejího zázemí. In: Boháčová, I. – Šmolíková, M. (eds.). Praha archeologická, Praha, 129-146.

Šnajdrová, Evženie (2014). Arma ofensiva et defensiva. Historické zbraně a zbroj ze sbírky Národního muzea, Praha.

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