When you think of Vikings, one of the first images that may come to mind is a warrior donning a helmet with horns protruding from either side. This iconic image has been popularized in movies, TV shows, and even Halloween costumes. But did Vikings actually wear helmets with horns? The answer may surprise you.
What did Vikings actually look like?
The Vikings were a diverse group of people who lived in different parts of Scandinavia, and their appearance would have varied depending on factors such as their location, occupation, and social status. However, some general characteristics are often associated with Vikings based on historical and archaeological evidence.
Vikings were typically tall, with an average height of around 5’7″ to 5’11” (170 to 180 cm). They had a robust and muscular build due to their active lifestyle and diet, which was high in protein from meat and fish.
Vikings had a range of hair and eye colors, with blonde or red hair being common. They often wore their hair long, sometimes with intricate braids or other styles. Beards were also common among Viking men, and they would occasionally trim or braid their beards as well.
In terms of clothing, Vikings wore a range of garments made from materials such as wool, linen, and leather. Men typically wore a tunic, trousers, and a cloak or fur-lined coat for warmth. Women wore dresses and tunics, often with an apron or shawl for added warmth.
Vikings also wore a variety of accessories, such as belts, brooches, and jewelry made from silver, gold, and other metals. They often adorned their clothing with intricate embroidery or other decorative elements.
What did Vikings wear on their heads?
Vikings wore a variety of headgear depending on their social status, occupation, and the climate in which they lived. Helmets were worn by warriors in battle, typically made of iron or other metals. These helmets were designed to protect the head and face from blows and often had a nose guard or cheek guards.
For everyday wear, Vikings wore a range of hats and caps made from materials such as wool, linen, and fur. These hats varied in style and design but were typically simple and functional, providing warmth and protection from the elements.
Women also wore head coverings, such as veils and headdresses, which varied in style depending on their social status and the region in which they lived.
In addition to hats and helmets, Vikings adorned their hair with jewelry, such as brooches and hairpins. These accessories were often made from silver, gold, or other metals and were sometimes decorated with intricate designs or gemstones.
Viking Helmet History
Let’s take a brief look at the history of Viking helmets. The Vikings were seafaring people who lived in Scandinavia from the late eighth century to the mid-eleventh century. They were known for raiding and trading expeditions, which took them all over Europe and beyond. The Vikings were also skilled craftsmen who created many beautiful and functional items, including weapons and armor.
When it comes to helmets, the Vikings did wear them in battle. Yet, the helmets they wore looked very different from the popular image of a horned helmet. Instead, Viking helmets were typically made from iron or other metals and were designed to protect the head and face from blows. They often had a nose guard or cheek guards, and some had a chainmail coif to protect the neck.
Did Vikings Wear Horned Helmets?
Now let’s get to the question at hand: did Vikings have horns on their helmets? The answer is no; they did not. No evidence supports the idea that Viking helmets had horns, which were likely invented much later.
One theory is that the horned helmet image originated in the 19th century when artists and writers began to romanticize the Vikings as fierce warriors. They may have added horns to Viking helmets as a way to make them look even more intimidating. This idea was then perpetuated in popular culture, and the image of the horned helmet became firmly associated with Vikings.
Another theory is that the horned helmet idea came from a misunderstanding of Viking art. The Vikings were known for their intricate metalwork, often featuring animal images, including deer and rams. These images sometimes included antlers or horns, which may have been interpreted as part of a helmet by later generations.
Historically Accurate Viking Helmet
So what did Viking helmets actually look like? There are several examples of Viking helmets that archaeologists have found, and they all share some common features. For instance, they are all made from iron or other metals and have some form of protection for the head and face.
One of the most famous Viking helmets is the Gjermundbu helmet, discovered in Norway in the 1940s. This helmet dates back to the 10th century and is made from iron. It has a simple design, with a nose guard and cheek guards to protect the face. There are no horns or other embellishments on this helmet.
Another example is the Coppergate helmet, found in York, England, in the 1980s. This historical Viking helmet dates back to the 8th or 9th century and is made from iron. It has a more elaborate design than the Gjermundbu helmet, with a nose guard, cheek guards, and a chainmail coif to protect the neck. Again, there are no horns or other decorations on this helmet.
What Does a Viking Helmet With Horns Mean?
So if Vikings didn’t wear helmets with horns, where did the idea come from? As mentioned earlier, it’s likely that the horned helmet image was invented much later and has more to do with popular culture than historical accuracy.
But it is worth noting that the Vikings did have a strong connection to animals and nature. They were known for their reverence of the gods of nature, such as Thor and Odin, and many of their myths and legends involved animals like wolves, bears, and serpents. As mentioned earlier, they also incorporated animal imagery into their art and crafts.
This connection to animals may have contributed to the idea of horns on Viking helmets. Horns are a common feature of many animals and may have been seen as a symbol of strength and power. In addition, some Viking warriors may have worn animal hides or helmets adorned with animal motifs as a way to connect with their spiritual beliefs and gain protection from the gods.
What Animal Horns did Vikings Use?
The Vikings used a variety of animal horns for different purposes. One of the most common types of the horn used by the Vikings was cattle or oxen horns. These horns were often used to make drinking horns, a common item in Viking households, and often used during feasts and celebrations. Drinking horns were typically decorated with intricate designs and were sometimes adorned with silver or other metals.
In addition to cattle or oxen horns, the Vikings also used deer antlers for a variety of purposes. Antlers were often used as decorations or as part of religious ceremonies like the blót. They were also used to make tools, such as awls and needles.
The Vikings also used horns as musical instruments. The lur, a type of horn made from animal horns, was used in battle to signal troops and intimidate enemies. Moreover, the Vikings used other types of horns, such as the ram’s horn, for musical purposes and as part of religious ceremonies.
Who Wore Helmets with Horns?
While there is no evidence to support the idea that Vikings wore helmets with horns, other cultures did wear such helmets. For example, the Celts and the Scythians, who lived in Europe and Asia around the same time as the Vikings, were known to wear helmets with horns or antlers.
The Celts, who lived in what is now Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, were known for their elaborate metalwork and often adorned their helmets with horns or antlers. Some historians speculate that Celtic art may have influenced the horned helmet image.
The Scythians, who lived in what is now Russia and Central Asia, also wore helmets with horns or antlers. These helmets were often made from animal hides and were decorated with fur and other animal motifs. Like the Vikings, the Scythians had a strong connection to nature and believed in the power of animals.
What Did Viking Helmets Look Like?
As you can see, Viking helmets did not have horns. Instead, they were typically made from iron or other metals and were designed to protect the head and face from blows. They often had a nose guard or cheek guards, and some had a chainmail coif to protect the neck.
Viking helmets were not as elaborate as those worn by other cultures, such as the Celts or the Scythians. They were functional rather than decorative, and there is no evidence to suggest that Vikings adorned their helmets with animal motifs or other decorations.
What is the name of Odin’s helmet?
In Norse mythology, Odin’s helmet is named “Helm of Awe” or “Ægishjálmr” in Old Norse. The Helm of Awe is described as a magical helmet believed in providing protection and strength to its wearer. It was often depicted as a symbol of power and was thought to be able to strike fear into the hearts of enemies. The Helm of Awe is sometimes represented with a series of interlocking runes or symbols, which were believed to imbue the helmet with additional magical powers.
Today, the Helm of Awe remains a popular symbol in modern Norse and Viking-inspired art, jewelry, and tattoos, and it continues to be associated with strength, power, and protection.
In conclusion, the idea that Vikings wore helmets with horns is a myth. There is no evidence to support this idea, and the horned helmet image was likely invented much later as a way to romanticize the Vikings as fierce warriors.
Viking helmets were designed to protect the head and face from blows and were typically made from iron or other metals. While the Vikings did have a strong connection to animals and nature, there is no evidence to suggest that they adorned their helmets with animal motifs or decorations.
As with many historical myths, the idea of Viking helmets with horns has become ingrained in popular culture. On the other hand, by examining the historical evidence, we can better understand what Viking helmets looked like and how they were used in battle and everyday life.