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Nick Austin




Location: Sussex
Joined: 23 Feb 2012

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2012 4:30 pm    Post subject: Helmets at the Battle of Hastings         Reply with quote

I am doing archaeological work in the stream that goes past the site of the Battle of Hastings. We have been looking for armour and located some metal bands below the level of 13the century Saxon horse shoes in an anaerobic condition (black when excavated - turn brown within an hour).

I suspect that one of these bands is a very early Norman Helmet rim but can find no examples of such an authentic item despite there being references to them in old books. Spangenhelms are earlier and I cannot find any three hole Norman conical helmet images on the web. Does anyone know someone who owns an authentic 10th century Norman conical helmet as portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry?

see www.secretsofthenormaninvasion.com/normanconicalhemletrim.html
for details. I would also be interested to make contact with anyone able to examine the metal work to authenticate age as a first step.

regards

Nick Austin
Hastings
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Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
Joined: 07 Jun 2006
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 2,098

PostPosted: Sat 25 Feb, 2012 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nick,

Do you have any photographs of the other bands? I am interested. Some more photos of the helmet might help as I cannot see the rivets very well. Some look like there are two lines on on the top and one on the bottom spaced differently.

As far as I know we have no helmets from this period of this place of the spangen helmet make. That said we have some earlier and later but may be of limited use.

Some things to look at that might help.

I'd start by seeing if the size could fit a human head. Having examined bodies from this time I can say we safely have not changed so much that you could not make a fair estimate. If it is not shaped to a human head likely not a helmet. Could be something else though. Might help to make a full size model of what you think this may have been and see if it works.

Another is look for any signs of modern make. If modern welds or the like are visible then you can discard it.

I'd take it to somewhere like the BM or RA. With money the way things are in Britain and the rest of the world many local museums who had great people are now so over worked as others have been made redundant you might have to look around some to find a place that works. That said you can take it to several places for a look like Universities. Most of the people I could recommend do not live very close to you. Getting an exact age of inorganic material is a bit tricky as well.

Randall
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,190

PostPosted: Sat 25 Feb, 2012 1:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd start with the horseshoes. How do you know that they are 13th C?
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Nick Austin




Location: Sussex
Joined: 23 Feb 2012

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Mon 27 Feb, 2012 2:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Nick,

Do you have any photographs of the other bands? I am interested. Some more photos of the helmet might help as I cannot see the rivets very well. Some look like there are two lines on on the top and one on the bottom spaced differently.

As far as I know we have no helmets from this period of this place of the spangen helmet make. That said we have som

Randall


There are no grooves in the rivets and no welds and I had a small section in an electronic cleaning tank. The underlying metal is in relatively good condition and has a grey colour of something overlaying the shinny clean metal underneath. Its interesting because its not all smooth. There are no signs of any working and really has to be seen in situ as the photos dont really help. Someone who understands metal working and has the necessary electronic equipment to date the construction would be a good start and I am sure an xray would probably help understand how it was put together?

The size is pretty good to fit a human head over the top of chain mail as its about 3/4 of an inch wider than a head all round.

I'm happy to send this overseas if the people concerned have the relevant expertise.

Thank you for your interest

Nick
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
Joined: 02 Apr 2009

Posts: 483

PostPosted: Mon 27 Feb, 2012 4:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nick,

The internal diameter of 72cm (assuming that is the ID) would certainly be reasonable for an average human head with padding and coif.

Is it possible to say whether the empty rivet hole has been punched rather than drilled? It may be possible to determine this with the naked eye but might only be possible under miscroscopy.

I would urge you to contact your local PAS Finds Liason Officer as soon as possible and PLEASE do not attempt any further cleaning or, frankly, anything else. IF it is a relic of an ancient battlefield, 11th century or otherwise, it needs immediate and careful stabilisation and conservation.

Stephanie Smith
Finds Liaison Officer - Sussex
The Sussex Archaeological Society Barbican House, 169 High Street Lewes East Sussex BN7 1YE
Work T: + 44 (0) 1273 405731
E: flo@sussexpast.co.uk


One point regarding your theory that the band held some sort of hinged visor; there is no evidence for the use of hinged visors on helmets in Western Europe during the 11th century.

On your website you state that "William raises his visor on the battlefield ". No contemporary account of the battle supports this.
The incident where William has to show his face to his disheartened troops is mentioned in the Carmen, Gesta Guillelmi and by Oderic Vitalis but in each case the word used is one which translates to 'helmet' .
With a mail ventail over his face and the nasal covering his features, it would be necessary for William to lift his helmet (easily done as, contrary to popular belief, these helmets were not fastened with a chin strap) and bare his head/face (which may also have involved dropping his ventail).
This is clearly depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry.

The picture of William's Great Seal is, I'm afraid, a fanciful 18th or 19th century artists rendition, rather than a true depiction of the seal itself.
If you look here http://www.mernick.org.uk/seals/norman/william1.htm you'll see that it's impossible to state with any accuracy what William is wearing on his head. It may be a diadem, it may be a conical helm...what it almost certainly isn't is any sort of visored helm.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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