Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Helmets in the Migration Era? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Steven H




Location: Boston
Joined: 10 May 2006

Posts: 545

PostPosted: Sun 25 Feb, 2007 8:57 pm    Post subject: Helmets in the Migration Era?         Reply with quote

So, how common were helmets, especially steel/iron helmets in the period roughly 500-1000 CE?
I specify steel, because of an assertion I encountered that most soldiers would've had a leather helmet. Were leather helmets in use in this period? Common?

I'm curious about every part of Europe and culture in the time period. The places I've looked so far have given two rather different views.

Thanks.

Kunstbruder - Boston area Historical Combat Study
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Merv Cannon




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 15 Jul 2005
Reading list: 13 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 301

PostPosted: Sun 25 Feb, 2007 10:36 pm    Post subject: Migration Helms.         Reply with quote

Hi Steven................hmm...good questions...I wish there were simple easy answers. Artwork from this early period is all the more scarce and sometimes especially vague in its rendering. I guess " they " would certinally have had leather helms in the migration period. I dont know of any that have ever been found although they have found some leather items in bogs etc.....mostly shoes. As for steel.....quite expensive back then and I think would mostly have been found atop the heads of chiefs and nobles........although I imagine that a very sucessful group of raiders would have had a few more. Many had brass ( and some copper ) fittings around the steel "spangens" ( panels). I suppose in some respects the migration period represents a transitional period itself for helmets there having previously been many bronze helmet types. As the centuries tick over we start to see bronze and steel combos and then finally just steel....at least in central Europe and other places as we get to the year 1000. In Eastern European countries the brass & steel combo look seems to have hung in a little longer. The best visual reference on the web I can suggest is to look at the "Ulfhednar" group site. http://www.ulfhednar.org/ These guys, a German / Polish mix, are the nearest thing to walking talking originals around ( IMHO)....they ride Harley Davidsons to training !! They also have some of the best reconstructed helmets that I've seen as well as some of the best photographic quality on line.
There seems to be an awful lot of interrest in migration helms as far as I can tell, even by all the group members from later time periods. It seems to me that there is a need in the market for a good book on helmets particularly covering the migration period. There sure is'nt much around on the web !
Cheers for now.



 Attachment: 79.89 KB
Peter.jpg


Merv ....... KOLR
http://www.lionrampant.com.au/

"Then let slip the dogs of war ! "......Woof !
View user's profile Send private message Yahoo Messenger
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,272

PostPosted: Mon 26 Feb, 2007 7:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As usual, there is probably a LOT more speculation for leather helmets than actual evidence. In fact, if you can find ANY solid evidence, that would be surprising. We'd all love to see some, and I'm not trying to sound sarcastic! It really seems like the vast majority of warriors wore no helmet at all, typical equipment being spear and shield. Helmets were worn by the wealthier men, who could easily afford iron and bronze--both of which look better than leather as well as being far more protective. The few helmets which survive from the Migration Era are certainly very cool!

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Hugh Fuller




Location: Virginia
Joined: 01 Oct 2003

Posts: 256

PostPosted: Wed 28 Feb, 2007 7:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You know, at the time of the American Revolution, both sides had Light Dragoons using helmets of jacked leather, frequently but not always reinforced with iron or brass chains or bracing. They seemed to work well enough at stopping saber cuts for them to be continued into the Napoleonic Period by both the British and the Americans. This makes me wonder just why it is that leather helmets are held to be impossible in the Migration or any other period. I understand that we have found no archaeological evidence of them, but is absence of evidence really evidence of absence or is it simply that leather has not preserved well in the Northern European climate? I am NOT saying that they were used, but I wonder at the hard and fast claims that some make that they were NOT used.
Hugh
Still trying to walk in the Light
Please see 1 John 1:5
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,272

PostPosted: Wed 28 Feb, 2007 9:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ave, Hugh!

It's not a hard and fast claim! I'm just saying that no one can claim that they WERE used without some evidence. Especially if the claim is that they were common. Also be aware that there may very well have been leather caps which were just caps, not meant to be protection from weapons.

In the American Revolution, there were darn few instances of cavalry whacking at infantrymen's heads, and few enough of those would have been wearing such leather caps. It's been a LONG time since I did any research in that era, but (sounding like a broken record!) if you can find any accounts of a leather cap or helmet saving the skull of its wearer from a saber cut, I'd love to see them! It's also clear that many men with such caps chucked them for felt hats--why do that if they're important? Also, if leather alone was such protection, why add chains? Seems to me those "helmets" were a fashion cooked up by some clever Ordinance Board member, to make the men look stylish. MOST of what was worn in that era was just there to look good!

The Migration era is a very different time, obviously. Different needs, different technological base. Leather may not have been "expensive" or "precious", but the sources we have from many eras never give any indication of common men frantically looking for more little bits of cheap protection. The shield was considered adequate if you couldn't afford good armor.

Valete,

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Wed 28 Feb, 2007 9:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leather was certainly a good protection against rain--the wigs of European infantrymen almost all had leather insides/linings. As protection, though...well, they weren't really much use against edge-on blows, but many of the 18th- and 19th-century designs were reinforced with metal bands that made them somewhat useful against glancing or oblique blows. And not all cavalrymen were really that skilled with their swords.

The metal-reinforced design might not have been common among earlier leather helmets, though. Still, even without metal reinforcements or anything else that could add real protection, the presence of any sort of helmet on the head might have been a significant factor in improving the confidence of inexperienced men who had never had the chance to see those helmets fail against a fully-committed thrust or cut. It's all just theoretical speculation, of course. We can't prove or disprove the existence of leather helmets back then until we have an archaeological find or historical account able to back one position against the other.

BTW, a British cavalry sword actually cut through brass in a Napoleonic war incident. The account doesn't mentio nwhat happened to the sword--I expect it would have taken considerable damage to the edge--but it clearly cut through the brass and into the skull. Probably it wouldn't have been a ble to do the same against a real iron/steel helmet:

http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organ...oint2.html
View user's profile Send private message
Hugh Fuller




Location: Virginia
Joined: 01 Oct 2003

Posts: 256

PostPosted: Wed 28 Feb, 2007 9:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One leather helmet that comes readily to mind was the "Tarleton Helmet" used by Banastre Tarleton's Light Dragoons. Now, understand that he had redesigned the standard stirrup hilt British Light Dragoon saber of the time to add a pair of branches to the knuckle guard. he had done that because he had lost a finger in a saber duel earlier in the American Revolution. You can see the saber in the famous Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait of him, but a friend of mine had one and I have handled it and the branches would very definitely have protected the hand. I say this because I rather doubt that Tarleton would have accepted a leather helmet if he thought that it would not have given him adequate protection. And, yes, he did have gilded brass chains around the officers' version and plain brass chains around the enlisted versions, but they were pretty small and appear to me to be more for decoration than protection.
Hugh
Still trying to walk in the Light
Please see 1 John 1:5
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,272

PostPosted: Thu 01 Mar, 2007 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Except that Tarleton's troops were subject to British uniform regulations, which specified headwear of that sort. He was also a gentleman, and would have been very concerned with the fashion of the day. Since uniforms were much more influenced by fashion than by practicality (trust me, I've worn them!), he wouldn't have much reason to try to alter them. Now, we know in practice that the troops altered their uniforms quite a bit! Most of them ended up looking like local farmers--trousers, smocks or hunting shirts, and floppy hats.

I also don't think there was much concern for headwear that was more psychological boost than real protection (in the Migration era). Most of those folks were warrior cultures, quite accustomed to carrying weapons on a regular basis. Battle was what they did for FUN! As a comparison, look at the Zulus--shields and spears or clubs, period. Since their shields were hide, they were perfectly capable of making hide armor or helmets, but all they wore was decoration, basically.

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Hugh Fuller




Location: Virginia
Joined: 01 Oct 2003

Posts: 256

PostPosted: Thu 01 Mar, 2007 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew, given that his uniform was hardly regulation, being green rather than red*, and that he was conscious of safety in a saber duel, as shown by his modification to the standard form of light dragoon saber, I would think that he was probably less inclined than most toward following the dictates of fashion and of London in such things. The Tarleton Helmet became standard later on, but it was not at all standard at the time of the American Revolution. The British Light Dragoons were wearing leather caps or helmets, certainly, but they had no bills and had fancy front shields with their regimental emblems on them. Think of the 16th Light Dragoons, the "Death or Glory" boys with their skull and crossed bones, for example. The Tarleton Helmet was, basically, a jacked leather billed jockey cap with a bearskin roach and a green plume, trimmed with some light chains.

* And I would note that the use of green for skirmishing troops was still in the future at this point.

Hugh
Still trying to walk in the Light
Please see 1 John 1:5
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,272

PostPosted: Fri 02 Mar, 2007 9:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Fuller wrote:
Matthew, given that his uniform was hardly regulation, being green rather than red*, and that he was conscious of safety in a saber duel, as shown by his modification to the standard form of light dragoon saber, I would think that he was probably less inclined than most toward following the dictates of fashion and of London in such things.


Ah, but it was *fashionable* for officers to be non-uniform! And his troops were Provincials, not British regulars, so they were not issued red coats (typical though not a solid rule, as I recall).

Quote:
The Tarleton Helmet became standard later on, but it was not at all standard at the time of the American Revolution...


Fair enough, I'm hazy on the details. But the photos I've seen of originals don't look all that substantial, more like just painted leather rather than jacked or specially hardened. The fashions were still evolving. I think it was guys like Tarleton himself who helped make short jackets stylish.

I think we've migrated away from the Migration Era, here, sorry about that!

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Carl Goff




Location: Florida
Joined: 27 Sep 2005
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 196

PostPosted: Fri 02 Mar, 2007 11:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Metal helmets in the Migration Era were probably restricted to what we would think of as upper-middle to upper class people today. Roughly what Merv said.

Use of leather helmets probably depended on a lower-class warrior's common sense. The "anything is better than nothing" approach, if you would.

Oh, East of sands and sunlit gulf, your blood is thin, your gods are few;
You could not break the Northern wolf and now the wolf has turned on you.
The fires that light the coasts of Spain fling shadows on the Eastern strand.
Master, your slave has come again with torch and axe in his right hand!
-Robert E. Howard
View user's profile Send private message
Vrin Thomas





Joined: 16 Dec 2005

Posts: 12

PostPosted: Fri 02 Mar, 2007 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I got these images off the hermann historica auction house site. They state that both of these helms are from the 5th/6th migration era, I know that iron was labor intensive to produce but these peices seem relativly simple and might be equivalent to "economy models"


 Attachment: 94.93 KB
migration-01.jpg


 Attachment: 80.98 KB
migration-02.jpg
http://www.hermann-historica.com/

auction #49 under armour

View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,272

PostPosted: Sun 04 Mar, 2007 9:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carl Goff wrote:
Metal helmets in the Migration Era were probably restricted to what we would think of as upper-middle to upper class people today. Roughly what Merv said.


Right, same thing I said, too.

Quote:
Use of leather helmets probably depended on a lower-class warrior's common sense. The "anything is better than nothing" approach, if you would.


But again, there is no evidence that they thought that way! Their "common sense" was rarely like ours. In all the cultures I've run across over the years that had requirements or descriptions for the grunt warrior or "citizen soldier" or militiaman or whatever, "shield and spear" is the overwhelmingly most common thing you find. There simply aren't any descriptions of men jury-rigging protective items, or mentions of common "cheaper" armors or helmets such as leather. There are no depictions of things that are identifiably leather helmets rather than metal or just cloth caps. There are no archeological remains of leather helmets, even in places where shoes and other leather items survive. So the only conclusion is that the vast majority of men on the early medieval or ancient battlefield were perfectly content with their shields for protection. I am sure that those who could afford a metal helmet would have one, and certainly a helmet would be cheaper than a shirt of mail, and therefore more common. But hardly universal. In the high middle ages comes the rise of the gambeson for common infantry, usually described as a padded linen coat or tunic. English laws required that and a helmet for spearmen--and it doesn't say "leather helmet" so I think the assumption is iron. So still no evidence for leather!

Valete,

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Nick Trueman





Joined: 27 Mar 2006

Posts: 246

PostPosted: Mon 05 Mar, 2007 10:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi

Thick sole leathers that we have today was a rarity in early European middle ages. All shoes found in this period are very thin even the soles. Surviving leathers are usually no more thicker than 1-2 even 3 mm. This raises the question if such a delicate leather (usually found on shoes and seax sheaths) can survive a 1000 yrs or more ,why are no thick leather armours ever ever found? Remember I am speaking about Nth Europe. The lamellar found at Birka is of steppe origin where I dare say animal husbandry and breading was a step ahead of Europe.
What would be more feasible for the poor warrior would be a felted cap Felt is easy but laborious to produce, and if done properly will be a much better armour than leather.

On a off topic it has been suggested Hungarian warriors of the early period wore felted kaftans as a form of armour? As so little metallic and NO leather armours have been found beyond the Carpathians during the period of Magyar expansion in Europe.

There is no evidence for either armours though? More iron helmets are found in Vendal, migration period graves than that of the Viking age?

N
View user's profile Send private message
Mikael Ranelius




Location: Sweden
Joined: 06 Mar 2007

Posts: 252

PostPosted: Tue 06 Mar, 2007 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi, this is my first post here, and I find this discussion really interesting!

If you by the term migration era concerns the period c. 4th-5th centuries CE, I'd guess a great deal of roman armour and helmets were quite common. For instance, the gothic army under Fritigern who fought Valens at Adrianople in 378 AD were well-equipped with arms and armour of roman manufacture. It's very likely that this abundant roman equipment was still around in use after a century or so.

When it comes to the centuries thereafter, 500-1000 CE, we have to remember that armies in general were rather small even by the standards of the time. Perhaps most of the men making up these small armies were from a social background who could afford helmets, whereas larger levies would contain lots of poorer men who had to do with just a shield for protection. Look at the saxon army of the 11th century and earlier - here the elite household huscarls would of course have helmets, as would also the proffessional warriors forming up the "select fyrd". However, the poorer free men making up the massed levies of the "greater fyrd" would on the other hand have had fewer helmets, if any at all.

/Mikael
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,272

PostPosted: Wed 07 Mar, 2007 9:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikael Ranelius wrote:
If you by the term migration era concerns the period c. 4th-5th centuries CE, I'd guess a great deal of roman armour and helmets were quite common. For instance, the gothic army under Fritigern who fought Valens at Adrianople in 378 AD were well-equipped with arms and armour of roman manufacture. It's very likely that this abundant roman equipment was still around in use after a century or so.


I don't think equipment would last that long. As a comparison, in the 18th century a British soldier's musket was expected to last 12 years in service, but it was found that they typically lasted only 6 years--because the soldiers essentially cleaned them to death! Constant cleaning (and drilling) thinned the metal to the point of unusability. Now, a late Roman helmet or piece of armor isn't necessarily going to get scrubbed and polished as much as an 18th century soldier would do, but the ancients did like to keep things shiny. I'd be surprised if something lasted 25 years with regular use.

Also remember that Germanic people had a habit of throwing battlefield loot into bogs and lakes as offerings, they didn't keep it all to use themselves. It's not like they needed it, after all, since it obviously didn't do any good for the guys who had been wearing it, eh?

It is clear that Roman fashions continued through many years, but without some backing from the archeological record I'd be careful about claiming that old gear stayed in use that long.

Valete,

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Mikael Ranelius




Location: Sweden
Joined: 06 Mar 2007

Posts: 252

PostPosted: Wed 07 Mar, 2007 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:


I don't think equipment would last that long. As a comparison, in the 18th century a British soldier's musket was expected to last 12 years in service, but it was found that they typically lasted only 6 years--because the soldiers essentially cleaned them to death! Constant cleaning (and drilling) thinned the metal to the point of unusability. Now, a late Roman helmet or piece of armor isn't necessarily going to get scrubbed and polished as much as an 18th century soldier would do, but the ancients did like to keep things shiny. I'd be surprised if something lasted 25 years with regular use.

Also remember that Germanic people had a habit of throwing battlefield loot into bogs and lakes as offerings, they didn't keep it all to use themselves. It's not like they needed it, after all, since it obviously didn't do any good for the guys who had been wearing it, eh?

It is clear that Roman fashions continued through many years, but without some backing from the archeological record I'd be careful about claiming that old gear stayed in use that long.

Valete,

Matthew


True, but it was just some speculations. Perhaps old roman gear was reworked or reforged into new helmets and pieces of armour? After the migration area most germanic tribes, at least those who settled within the borders of the old Roman Empire, were christian and had abandoned the habit of burial- and bog sacrifice
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Helmets in the Migration Era?
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum