Facts and Fiction
The Viking helmets are probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Vikings. At the same time most people will probably visualize the helmet with horns or even wings.
Unlike many people believe, there is no evidence that the Vikings wore horned or winged helmets. It’s actually rather likely that they didn’t have helmets at all or at least not the way we think of them today.
Most Viking warriors were simple farmers and did not have a wealthy background. It is therefore unlikely that they would be wearing helmets, as they were expensive to buy. Further more, there are not that many helmets today that have survived and few burial mounts have contained helmets. Most likely the Vikings wore leather caps, possibly enforced with metal.
The helmets were similar to other helmets, both before and after the Viking age. But they differed in a fundamental way from those that were common in Europe both before and after the Viking age.
When other helmets were made out of one single metal plate, the ones that the Vikings had were usually made up of four parts. These parts were then fixed together with a metal rim that crossed the helmet on the top and around the edges.
There is no single explanation for this design, but most likely it’s origin lies in the price of the helmet and the access to good metal.
The Viking Helmet Design
As mentioned before the helmets did not have horns or any other decorative accessories. They often had protective metal down and around the ears and some helmets found in burial mounts had a metal mask in front.
The way the helmets were made, as I described before, was most likely cheaper and easier way of acquiring a protective headgear, but at the same time was probably the less protective helmet of the era.
To fasten the helmets, the user would strap it under his chin by using a leather band or by tying the ear protection plates together.