During the late 1950s, construction workers digging trenches for a sewerage pipeline, discovered a mysterious iron helmet in the northeast of rural England. The iron helmet was presumed to be an ancient artifact as the locals considered it to be a “Viking helmet”. Considering its age and rarity, the rusted iron helmet was handed over as a loan to the Preston Park Museum, where the mysterious artifact had been on display for a number of decades.
Recently, however, a new study performed by researchers from Durham University have identified the ancient artifact as a 10th century Viking helmet. Chris Caple, the lead researcher of the new study, remarked that the Viking helmet is the first of its kind to be ever found in Great Britain and the only second complete Viking artifact in the entire world. The helmet, which was discovered in Yarm, a small town in Yorkshire, was badly corroded and at the time difficult to study and analyze. For years, the origins and age of the iron helmet remained a serious debate among historians. However, with this newfound information, the mysterious helmet has been concluded to be of Anglo-Scandinavian origin and made during the 10th century.
The study, which has now been published in the journal of Medieval Archaeology, explains how research teams were able to determine the origins of the iron helmet by carefully examining its design. The undecorated thin iron plates and the crested construction of the helmet were a notable feature of the 9th and 11th century Viking armor. The study further explains that the ancient helmet is so unique in its design that it was extremely difficult to verify its age and origins, hence why the artifact remained unidentified for several decades.
In a recent interview, Chris Caple mentioned that the research was “challenging and arduous.” The iron helmet had already lost most of its content due to corrosion, making it extremely fragile and difficult to handle. The helmet was examined under very dry conditions to prevent further corrosion and damage. Caple also says that the research is not yet complete as they still have to figure out the exact date at which the helmet was crafted.
“We were initially alerted to the object by our colleagues at Preston Park Museum,” Caple explains. “It was a challenging project, as the thin iron sheet is now very susceptible to corrosion (it has to be kept in very dry conditions), so it was not simply a question of only showing the date at which it was created, but working out how it had survived until it was unearthed in the 1950s. Our analysis shows that it was initially preserved in waterlogged conditions, only later becoming damaged and started to corrode. Fortunately, it was discovered before it corroded away completely.”
The Yarm helmet is now on display at Preston Park Museum.