The Viksø Helmets – Denmark’s Sacred Artefacts From The Bronze Age

The Viksø helmets are some of the most reputed and prominent artefacts dating from the Bronze Age in Denmark. These ancient relics were discovered in 1942 on the site of a bog called Brøns Mose located westward of the small town of Veksø on the island of Zealand. 

These two helmets were dated from the Nordic Bronze Age (sometime from between 900-1100 BC). Given their design and the materials with which they were made, it is a certainty that the helmets were used for ceremonial purposes rather than in warfare.

Photograph depicting the two Bronze Age helmets discovered near the small town of Veksø, Zealand, Denmark. Credit: John Lee/Arnold Mikkelsen, Nationalmuseet via Wikimedia Commons.

The artefacts in question were crafted of bronze and feature two long bull-like horns embellished with feathers and horsehair, being thus part of a religious costume. Their design, however, is not identical to the already stereotypical ‘Viking horned helmet’, which is mostly a 19th century Romantic invention.

Nonetheless, these helmets (along with several other similar remains from the Nordic Bronze Age, including most notably rock carvings from modern day Sweden) might be the root for the creation of the misconception according to which the Norsemen allegedly worn horned or winged helmets throughout the tumultuous Viking Age.

Bronze plate from Öland island, Sweden depicting a Norse warrior with a bird-like horned helmet and a berserker. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Initially used in rituals, the two bronze helmets unearthed near Viksø might have been produced somewhere in Central Europe or even northern present day Germany. Some elements of the Viksø helmets show similarities with the Ancient Greek and Roman cultures (particularly with respect to the mane of horsehair from the middle of the helmets, reminiscent to a certain extent to the Roman Galea).

Even though the artefacts might not be of Danish origin, it must be mentioned that the design of these helmets was not unknown in Denmark during the Nordic Bronze Age. While the Viksø helmets are the only best preserved example discovered to date, the Grevensvænge figurines are another proof of the usage of helmets with an almost identical shape and design in Bronze Age Denmark.

Nowadays, these helmets, along with the rest of the Bronze Age artefacts collected from the marsh west of Veksø, are on display at the National Museum of Denmark based in Copenhagen.

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