Durham University discovers UK’s first Viking helmet

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Chris Caple, Emeritus Professor of Durham University’s Archaeology Department, has traced the origins of an iron helmet found in County Durham in the 1950s.

The helmet was forged between 900-1000 AD for a Viking settler. Unused in battle, all damage was inflected during its ceremonial burial.

Using metallurgical analysis of the metal decomposition and aesthetic comparison to other European medieval helmets found and described in medieval literature, the research provides “conclusive evidence” of its tenth century origins, according to the Society for Medieval Archaeology.

This makes it one of two medieval Anglo-Scandinavian helmets in existence. The other helmet was found in Haugsbygd, near Oslo, in Norway.

Photograph via Jeff Veitch

The iron helmet was unearthed during sewage works in Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees, in the mid twentieth century. The waterlogged conditions of the pit prevented the ‘Yarm Helmet’ from eroding completely.  Burying armour became less common in the tenth century as more Viking settlers and Saxons transitioned to Christianity, making it such a rare discovery.

The Society for Medieval Archaeology stated that the discovery should “provide new insight into the military culture and practice of Anglo-Scandinavian England”.  

The ‘Yarm Helmet’ is displayed in Preston Park Museum. 

Image: Frank Dicksee’s (1853-1928) ‘Funeral of a Viking’ displayed in Manchester Art Gallery

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