Bronze horned helmets caught in Danish bog did not belong to Vikings, study finds


Two spectacular bronze horned helmets discovered in a bog in the small Danish town of Viksø did not belong to the Vikings, according to a new study.

The helmets, which were discovered in 1942, were actually worn by a different civilization in 900 BC, more than 1,500 years before the region’s first Vikings, researchers say.

Now housed in the National Museum of Denmark, the helmets each have distinctive curved horns in the style of a bull and two large domes made to resemble eyes.

The elaborate styling of the headgear may have made it possible to attach feathers or even horsehair, so that wearers could witness sacred rituals in style.

Researchers believe the helmets were likely imported from Mediterranean Europe, including Sardinia and the western Iberian Peninsula, before being buried in Viksø.

The helmets each have particular curved horns in the style of a bull and two large domes made to resemble eyes

Artist's impression of the appearance of helmets with ornaments.  The helmets were less likely to have been worn in combat than as part of religious rituals, experts said.

Artist’s impression of the appearance of helmets with ornaments. The helmets were less likely to have been worn in combat than as part of religious rituals, experts said.

HELMETS WITH HORNS FROM VIKSØ

In 1942, a peat cutter working in the Danish town of Viksø found a bronze helmet in a bog. Subsequent excavations at the same location revealed another nearly identical helmet.

The helmets have particular curved horns in the style of a bull and two large domes made to resemble eyes.

Experts believe they were less likely to have been worn in combat than as part of religious rituals.

The helmets were less likely to have been worn in battle than as part of religious rituals, experts believe, before being placed in the bog as offerings to the gods.

When the helmets were discovered in 1942, one of them was found resting on an ashwood tray, suggesting they were deliberately placed rather than misplaced.

Experts say, “This pair of twin helmets impart extraordinary agency to the viewer, suggesting that their wearers wield power, whether viewed as a god, a human, or something in between.”

The new study was led by archaeologists from the Moesgaard Museum and the University of Aarhus in Denmark, who based their new findings on the results of radiocarbon dating.

Study author Heide Wrobel Nørgaard spotted black residue on one of the helmets and dated it to 900 BC – around 1,500 before the Vikings arrived in Viksø.

One of the telling clues was the elaborate style of the helmets, which matches rock art and figurines dating from the same period on the island of Sardinia.

In 1942, a peat cutter working in the Danish town of Viksø found a bronze helmet in a bog.  Subsequent excavations at the same location revealed another nearly identical helmet

In 1942, a peat cutter working in the Danish town of Viksø found a bronze helmet in a bog. Subsequent excavations at the same location revealed another nearly identical helmet

These typically depict warriors with nearly identical horned helmets, according to the study’s authors.

“There are huge similarities between them,” Nørgaard, based in the archeology department at the Moesgaard Museum, told Science.

Due to their similarities to Sardinian works of art, experts believe that bronze crafts and tools were exported along a trade route from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean.

The team believe this proposed trade route bypassed the Atlantic coast, rather than crossing the treacherous Alps.

‘Those [helmets] are new indications that the metals have been traded further than we thought, ”Aarhus University archaeologist Helle Vandkilde, lead author of the article, told Science.

Viksø is a small town between Ballerup and Ølstykke-Stenløse in Egedal, about 20 km northwest of Copenhagen, Denmark

Viksø is a small town between Ballerup and Ølstykke-Stenløse in Egedal, about 20 km northwest of Copenhagen, Denmark

However, an expert who was not involved in the study is skeptical of this proposed trade route.

Nicola Ialongo, archaeologist at Georg August University, claims the trade route, if it existed, would have left similar helmets in Belgium, France and the UK.

“Even if you assume the sailors went straight from Sardinia to Scandinavia, they must have stopped along the way,” Ialongo said.

The study was published in the journal Praehistorische Zeitschrift.

DISCOVER VIKSØ HELMETS

In 1942, in a newly opened peat digging area of ​​Brøns Mose in Viksø (Veksø) in Zeeland, a worker heard a cracking noise under his spade.

He had stumbled across two nearly identical bronze horned helmets – although the find was initially considered rubbish and set aside.

These were decorated with bumps and adorned with eyes and beaks. Viksø’s helmets date back to the Bronze Age and were made in the early part of the first millennium BCE.

They were probably used in religious ceremonies. They were later placed in the bog as offerings.

One of the helmets was placed on an ash wood tray. The offerings may also have included a ceramic vessel.

Source: National Museum of Denmark


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