Viking Helmets Introduction
A helmet (helm) was a prized possession for an ancient Norse warrior. Wearing one in battle could mean the difference between life and death. When most people visualize an ancient Viking warrior the image almost always includes a metal helmet with horns protruding from the top. However this picture is not accurate there is no evidence of Vikings ever wearing horned helmets. This popular misconception quite possibly was started by Christians who lived during the Viking Age. It is possible that while trying to rid Europe of the Vikings pagan ways they wanted to portray them as savages and make them appear devil like; portraying them in horned helmets was an excellent way of accomplishing this.
Not only did Vikings not wear helmets with horns most of the Norse warriors did not wear helmets at all. Good helmets were made out of iron and most Norse warriors could not afford to have one made. The majority did not wear a helmet at all; some wore helmets made of leather held together with iron strips, and very few wore helmets made completely out of iron.
Our knowledge of the helmets Vikings wore is very limited. This is due to the limited number of Viking helms discovered. Historians depend largely on the Norse Sagas for information.
Discoveries of Norse HelmetsAs mentioned above there have been very few discoveries of Viking helmets. In fact there have been only three, and only one of these is a complete helmet. The probable reasons for the limited finds are listed below.
- Helmets were prized processions that were probably passed down from generation to generation. They were usually not buried with dead warriors or simply disposed of; at least until the metal thinned out and made it useless, which could take centuries.
- Due to iron being expensive many Norse helmets were probably made out of leather and therefore have long since disintegrated.
- When a helmet was no longer needed or became useless it was probably melted down so that the iron could be used for some other purpose.