Horned Helmets Were Used 2,000 Years Before Vikings

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The Horned Helmets Falsely Attributed to Vikings Are Actually Nearly 3,000 Years Old

by Livia Gershon/Smithsonianmag.com

Some of the most common depictions of Vikings show large warriors wearing helmets affixed with horns. But new research finds that the famed helmets discovered in Viksø, Denmark, 80 years ago actually date to about 900 B.C.E., nearly 2,000 years before the Vikings.

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

Viking society only developed in the 9th century C.E., and there is no sign that Vikings really wore horned helmets. According to History.com, the legend likely originated with Scandinavian artists in the 1800s, who popularized portrayals of the nomadic raiders wearing the equipment in their works.

Researchers had previously suggested that the two helmets, decorated with curved horns, originated in the Nordic Bronze Age, dated from 1700 to 500 B.C.E. Vankilde’s new study, published in the journal Praehistorische Zeitschrift, used radiocarbon dating of birch tar found on one of the horns to confirm their age more precisely.

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