Britain’s first Viking helmet found

Britain’s first Viking helmet discovered

Within the 1950s, workmen digging trenches for brand new sewerage pipes in Chapel Yard, Yarm, made an uncommon discovery – a battered helmet. Recognized regionally because the ‘Viking helmet’, it has been on mortgage to Preston Park Museum from Yarm City Council for plenty of many years. It had by no means beforehand been researched and the age of the helmet had brought on a lot debate till now.

Britain’s first Viking helmet discovered
The Yarm Helmet following analysis and conservation
[Credit: Preston Park Museum]

Lately a undertaking led by Dr Chris Caple, Emeritus Reader at Durham College, has been underway to find new details about the helmet and the findings have simply been reported within the journal Medieval Archaeology.

The analysis has focussed on figuring out if the helmet is real and this concerned analysing its supplies, the way it was made, its form and practical options. If it was real how had it survived within the damp earth of the tidal riverbank of the River Tees?

Yarm will not be the place you’ll look forward to finding a Viking helmet. The one earlier discover of this date from Yarm was a chunk of ninth century cross shaft, which is now in Durham Cathedral. There are nevertheless many items of Viking age sculpture that belong to St. Martin’s Church, Kirklevington, most of that are on mortgage to Preston Park Museum.

This might point out that Yarm was a Viking market place with the retailers and leaders residing within the Kirklevington space, 1.5 miles away. The helmet dates to earlier than the institution of the city and was discovered on the east facet of the loop within the river, an space that might have been a quayside.

Britain’s first Viking helmet discovered
X-Radiographs of the Yarm Helmet displaying the rivets and overlapping plates
of the composite building [Credit: Preston Park Museum]

The helmet is product of iron bands and plates, riveted collectively, with a easy knop on the high. Under the forehead band there’s a spectacle (eye) masks and the decrease fringe of the forehead band is pierced with round holes, the place a mail curtain might have been connected. The harm to the helmet is in step with an object being hit by a plough or spade while buried.

The hammer marks overlaying the floor and ragged edges of the infill plates present the helmet was made at a blacksmiths forge with out advantage of extra refinement. The rivet holes had been punched by scorching steel from the outer facet, guaranteeing a easy exterior that might not catch bladed weapons. The out turned lip of the forehead band was a later alteration, pushing the mail curtain away from the neck, presumably to guard an damage.

The circumference of the helmet is much like that of different early medieval helmets and would have been worn over a padded cap round 16mm thick. The steel is 1-2mm thick and would soak up the affect from a weapon.

Samples from the helmet had been analysed and proven to be product of an iron, whose composition is typical of the early medieval interval. There is no such thing as a proof that the helmet was embellished, whereas the minerals discovered within the helmet recommend that it was initially buried in waterlogged situations. Was it intentionally hidden after which not retrieved as a result of one thing occurred to the proprietor?

Britain’s first Viking helmet discovered
Schematic plan and facet view of the Yarm helmet
[Credit: Preston Park Museum]

The development of the helmet is workmanlike and signifies that it was meant to be used, not show. This suits with its instructed date of being Anglo-Scandinavian (Viking). By the 11th century armies had been bigger and used techniques reminiscent of defend partitions with archers raining arrows down, as proven within the Bayeux Tapestry.

This differs from the person fight of an ancient times the place the usage of armour wouldn’t have been obligatory. The dearth of armour, helmets and mail hauberks (shirt of chain mail), was thought of a key issue within the Vikings shedding the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.

Helmets had been scarce all through North-West Europe within the sixth to eighth century and solely the richest male graves contained them. Extremely embellished, they had been a logo of authority relatively than for cover. A quantity have survived as a result of they had been buried as grave items.

Within the ninth–11th century the helmets are sensible and undecorated however way more frequent, nevertheless they hardly ever survive as they had been recycled not buried as grave items.  The Yarm helmet now joins the Gjermundbu helmet, Norway, because the second instance from this era.

Britain’s first Viking helmet discovered
Yarm Helmet in Shops at Preston Park Museum, 2007
[Credit: Preston Park Museum]

The iron of which the helmet is made, its methodology of manufacture, its form, even its plain practical nature correspond effectively with a 10th century date. The spectacle masks suggests an object of Anglo-Scandinavian heritage. All of the proof factors to this being a uncommon early medieval helmet which was likely made and used within the north of England within the 10th century.

The Yarm helmet, the primary comparatively full Anglo-Scandinavian (Viking) helmet present in Britain and solely the second found in north-west Europe.

The Yarm Helmet is on show on the Preston Park Museum in Stockton.

Supply: Preston Park Museum [August 10, 2020]


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