Helmet (Spangenhelm)

Date: 6th–7th century

Culture: Byzantine or Germanic

Medium: Iron, copper alloy, gold

Dimensions: H. 8 9/16 in. (21.8 cm); Diam. 7 13/16 in. (19.9 cm); Wt. 2 lb. (907 g)

Classification: Helmets

Credit Line: Gift of Stephen V. Grancsay, 1942

Accession Number: 42.50.1

Description

This helmet comes from a small group of closely related Spangenhelme (strap helmets). The sites where they have been found are widely scattered, ranging from Sweden to Germany, the Balkans and Libya. The Metropolitan Museum’s helmet was found in the Saône River near Trévoux, France. The quality of the helmets and their diverse find sites suggest that they were made as diplomatic gifts to foreign rulers, perhaps sent from the Byzantine court or from the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy.

All the helmets originally had metal cheek pieces, a mail neck defense, and often an integral nasal. As on this helmet, the decoration typically consists of patterns punched into the radiating straps and birds amid an undulating grapevine embossed on the brow band. Some examples include crosses and other Christian symbols.

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