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The Vikings are often portrayed as vicious warriors with horned helmets and double sided axes. But how historically accurate is this modern depiction?
Although Viking helmets are often portrayed as having horns, this was not the reality for the Viking warriors of the past as far as we know. The helmet of Gjermundbu is the most accurate artefact we have to give us an insight into what real Viking helmets would have looked like. It is the only remaining fully preserved Viking helmet. Various other parts of helmets and depictions of Viking warriors in tapestries and drawings are how modern historians have an idea about what helmets in the Viking age would have actually looked.
Gjermundbu helmet - NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC2.0
Historical depictions of helmets with Horns.
There are a number of reasons that horned helmets would not be practical in battle, however there were a number of depictions in ancient tapestries where horned helmets are shown. One such image comes from the Oseberg burial site in Norway, where a helmet with golden horns is featured. These warriors who were shown wearing the golden horns were berserkers, legendary soldiers from Icelandic sagas who fought in a trance like state.
Arguments against horned helmets.
It is unlikely that the norsemen really wore horned helmets in battle and it is widely accepted by modern historians that the helmets with horns would only have been used for ritual purposes, if at all. The horns would be impractical in battle and would have gotten in the way, offering little in the way of benefit to the wearer. The sources that show the horned helmets also mostly originate from the early Viking age, with later and often more reliable sources negating to mention them.
So what did Viking Helmets really look like?
Even though not an awful lot of hard evidence exists about the Vikings helmets historians have a pretty good idea of how they would have looked. A lot of Viking age helmets would have been quite simple in their design. The majority consisted of a helmet bowl accompanied by a prominent nose piece, and cheek plates for protection. Raised sections around the eye sockets of the helmets also made it easier for blows to be deflected. Many Viking helmets would have featured more elaborate cheek guards and chain mail sections at the back to provide extra protection.
Thanks for reading, We hope that you enjoyed the blog and maybe learned something about the history of the Vikings. If you have any questions, or have anything to add, please leave a comment below.
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