HELMET

Unique ID: LANCUM-E48D73

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find validated and published by finds advisers

An extremely fine, near complete copper-alloy two-piece Roman cavalry sports helmet dating from the late 1st-mid-3rd century AD. The helmet consists of a face mask, a head piece with a griffin figurine crest attachment. It was found in 33 fragments, with 34 smaller fragments found in association. Many of the fragments were found to join and the restored helmet is now c. 90% complete.

The finely wrought face mask corresponds to Robinson's Cavalry Sports Helmet Type C (Robinson 1975, 114-7) and Kohlert's Type V (Kohlhert 1978, 23-4). It depicts an idealised youthful male face, with luxuriant curly hair in three rows, the first of which extends to the mid-point of the full cheeks. The fine eyebrows are indicated by short diagonal engraved strokes, the eyelids are shown and both eyes are depicted with a pierced ring in the centre of the eye-holes to represent the iris. Traces of the reserved white metal coating are visible on the face, but it is likely that the hair and helmet would have appeared in bright natural bronze. The nostrils are pierced and the full lips slightly parted.

Originally the mask would have hinged at the centre of the brow within the curly hair (Jackson and Craddock 1995, 80). At the neck it was fastened by a leather strap which would have been secured by its eyeleted ends to an iron strap on the jawline on each side of the mask, with slight remains of iron corrosion surviving. The survival of the headpiece, in its Phrygian form is exceptional with a crest attachment in the form of a winged griffin with its right paw raised and resting on an amphora. At the back of the head is a single row of curls can be seen below a raised ridge.

Although no Roman garrisons are documented in the immediate vicinity, the findspot lies in an area with a substantial Roman military presence on a key route leading to the northern frontier. The nearest is at Brough and there are others further to the north-west in the Eden valley (e.g. Kirkby Thore, Brougham, Old Penrith). Stanwix, the garrison of the only thousand strong cavalry unit known from Roman Britain, is c. 50km to the NW. To the east of the Pennines over Stainmore are further garrisons.

Findspots of other sports helmets are varied. In many cases they have been found within or in the immediate environs of garrisons, often of auxiliary cavalry units (alae; cohortes equitatae) (Garbsch 1978) as at Ribchester, Lancashire and Newstead, Borders. In several cases however there is no closely associated fort or fortress, for instance, at Guisborough (N. Yorks) and Worthing (Norfolk) among the UK examples. The recent discussion by Nicolay (2007) of the 'lifecycle' of Roman military equipment provides various possible models by which the helmet may have come to be deposited in a context away from a garrison, by hoarding, votive deposition or burial with the dead. In this case of this helmet, the visor was found placed face downwards and the helmet had been folded prior to deposition. On this very limited evidence votive offering or hoarding of loot might better explain its deposition at this findspot, but in the absence of excavation this must remain speculative.

Notes:

This object is referred to as the Crosby Garrett helmet and has been displayed publicly three times. Firstly at the auction house (Christies Auction House - sale 7th October 2010 realised a hammer price of £2 million. Owner unknown.), secondly at the Royal Academy and subsequently at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery from 1st November 2013 - 26th January 2014.

Class: Sport

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: In a private collection, recorded for academic use

Chronology

Broad period: ROMAN
Subperiod from: Early
Period from: ROMAN [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Subperiod to: Early
Period to: ROMAN [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Date from: AD 75
Date to: AD 250

Dimensions and weight

Height: 407 mm
Quantity: 1

Personal details

Recorded by: Ms Sally Worrell - [ view all attributed records]
Identified by: Ms Sally Worrell - [view all attributed records]
Secondary identifier: Ralph Jackson - [ view all attributed records]

Other reference numbers

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Manufacture method: Cast [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Completeness: Complete [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Surface Treatment: Tinned [scope notes | view all attributed records]

A resized image of View of mask front

Image use policy

You can use our images unless stated otherwise under a CC BY-SA licence.

Spatial metadata

Region: North West
County: Cumbria
District: Eden
To be known as: North Cumbria

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: GPS (From FLO)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector [scope notes]
General landuse: Grassland, Heathland[scope notes]
Specific landuse: Disturbed[scope notes]

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Spotted a mistake? Tell us. Add a new comment | Total Comments [5]

Approved comments on this record

  • Daniel Pett wrote @ 00:28:38 on the 9th September 2010.

    This is my favourite object recorded so far with the Scheme. Reminds me of lectures with Mark Hassall at the IOA.

  • David Gill wrote @ 23:24:27 on the 9th September 2010.

    This is an interesting post. The helmet was found in May 2010 (as stated in the Christie's (London) 7 October 2010, lot 176. Since then the "33 fragments, with 34 smaller fragments found in association" have been cleaned, conserved, brought together, restored and presented. Who was the conservator?

  • Dr Mike Thomas wrote @ 22:41:50 on the 10th September 2010.

    There are numerous helmets of this type (Robinson, Cavalry sports, Type C), e.g. from Straubing (several), Rapolano, Stockstadt, Strass-Moos, Welzheim. They are all characterised by having youthful male faces, with tightly curled hair. However, they are all only represented by the mask portion of the helmet (in one or two cases there is a part of the rear portion as well). I wonder if all of these helmets did not originally have the 'phrygian cap' top portion?

    The Ostrov helmet looks (apart from the cap) quite different. I also know of one very similar to this (Ostrov) helmet, which also has the cap top portion, which is virtually complete and which is in private hands.

  • Ian Hedley wrote @ 21:17:00 on the 22nd September 2010.

    This helmet/facemask is very similar to those used by in the mid/Late Selucid period by the guard cavalry 'Agema' and also the cataphract cavalry used by that state. It would a disaster for this item to go abroad, what a magnificent piece of military 'hardware'

  • Kally wrote @ 17:38:39 on the 8th November 2010.

    I would love a really good quality copy taken from the original, the art is fantastic, striking, chilling even, could this be done without compromising its conservation?

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Audit data

Created: Wednesday 1st September 2010
Updated: Friday 8th November 2013

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