Horned “Viking” helmets didn’t belong to Vikings

Two spectacular bronze helmets decorated with bull-like, curved horns may have inspired the idea that more than 1,500 years later, Vikings wore bulls’ horns on their helmets, although there is no evidence they ever did.

Rather, the two helmets were likely emblems of the growing power of leaders in Bronze Age Scandinavia…

These two helmets found in 1942, a worker cutting peat for fuel discovered the helmets — which sport “eyes” and “beaks” — in a bog near the town of Viksø (also spelled Veksø) in eastern Denmark, a few miles northwest of Copenhagen. The helmets’ design suggested to some archaeologists that the artifacts originated in the Nordic Bronze Age (roughly from 1750 B.C. to 500 B.C.), but until now no firm date had been determined. The researchers of the new study used radiocarbon methods to date a plug of birch tar on one of the horns.

“For many years in popular culture, people associated the Viksø helmets with the Vikings,” said Helle Vandkilde, an archaeologist at Aarhus University in Denmark. “But actually, it’s nonsense. The horned theme is from the Bronze Age and is traceable back to the ancient Near East.”

The new research by Vandkilde and her colleagues confirms that the helmets were deposited in the bog in about 900 B.C. — almost 3,000 years ago and many centuries before the Vikings or Norse dominated the region.

Sigh. Another icon of pop-culture corrected by science.


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