viking helmet facts

Most Intriguing Facts About Viking Helmets

Viking culture has become synonymous with the iconic image of a helmeted warrior, adorned with fearsome horns. But how much do you really know about Viking helmets? In this article, we’ll uncover some little-known facts and surprising details about these ancient artifacts. From their design and construction to their symbolic significance, we’ll explore the fascinating world of Viking helmets.

Key Takeaways:

  • Viking helmets have a rich history and cultural significance
  • The popular image of horned Viking helmets is largely a myth
  • Viking helmets were designed for protection in battle and varied in style depending on the region and combat scenario
  • Authentic Viking helmets can be found in museums around the world

The Origins of Viking Helmets

The history of Viking helmets is shrouded in mystery, and much of what we know has been pieced together from historical accounts and archaeological finds. The earliest known helmets date back to the 6th century and were made of leather or iron bands that provided little protection to the wearer. As Viking raids intensified, so did the need for more advanced headgear.

One of the most iconic features of Viking helmets are the horns that protrude from either side. However, it’s a common misconception that Vikings wore horns on their helmets. In fact, no historical evidence exists that proves Viking helmets ever had horns. The idea of Viking helmets with horns or wings was popularized in the 19th century due to artistic depictions and cultural stereotypes.

The design of Viking helmets was heavily influenced by neighboring cultures, including the Romans and Celts. The nasal helmet, which had a pointed extension that protected the nose, was a popular design that Vikings adopted. They also incorporated elements of the spangenhelm, a helmet design used by the Germanic peoples.

The Origins of Viking Helmets

The origins of Viking helmets can be traced back to the 6th century. These early helmets were made of iron or leather bands and offered minimal protection to the wearer. As Viking raids became more frequent, more advanced headgear was required, leading to the development of the nasal helmet and the spangenhelm. The design elements of these helmets were heavily influenced by neighboring cultures such as the Romans and Celts.

Viking Helmet Design

The design of Viking helmets was both intricate and practical. The helmets were crafted with a distinctive shape that included a rounded dome and a nose guard. These design elements offered significant protection to the wearer, covering the vulnerable areas of the head and face.

The materials used to construct Viking helmets varied depending on the region and the wealth of the wearer. Iron was a common material for helmets, while wealthier Vikings could afford helmets made of bronze or gilded with gold. Leather was also used to create protective padding on the inside of helmets.

Decorative features were also an essential aspect of Viking helmet design. Some helmets were adorned with animal motifs, while others featured intricate patterns and designs. The iconic horns often associated with Viking helmets, however, were not a typical design element. In reality, they were rarely used in Viking helmets, and the popular image of the horned Viking helmet is a modern-day myth.

Viking helmet design also varied depending on the type of combat a warrior was likely to encounter. For example, helmets used for ship-to-ship combat were likely to have a face guard to protect against projectiles, while helmets used for land battles had a more open design to allow for greater visibility and mobility.

The craftsmanship involved in creating Viking helmets was impressive, and the helmets were often tailored to the individual wearer. The helmet’s shape was formed by hammering a single sheet of metal into a dome shape, while the nose guard was added separately. The helmet was then riveted together, and leather padding was added on the inside for comfort and protection.

Viking Helmet Symbolism

Viking helmets had significant symbolic meaning for the Vikings, representing courage, power, and status within Viking society. The helmets were often decorated with intricate designs and animal motifs, further emphasizing their importance as status symbols.

In addition to their symbolic significance, Viking helmets also had a practical purpose in battle. They offered protection to the wearer and were an essential piece of equipment for any Viking warrior heading into combat.

Overall, the design of Viking helmets was both practical and symbolic, offering protection to the wearer while also representing their status and power within Viking society.

The Purpose of Viking Helmets

The primary purpose of Viking helmets was to protect the wearer’s head during battle. However, contrary to popular belief, Viking helmets did not typically have horns. In fact, a majority of Viking helmets found in archaeological excavations have no horns at all.

The design of Viking helmets varied depending on the time period and region. Early Viking helmets were typically made of iron and consisted of a simple, conical shape with a nose guard. Later helmets featured a more elaborate design with cheek guards and a visor.

While Viking helmets offered some protection to the head, they were not impenetrable. The purpose of the helmet was to absorb the impact of a blow and prevent serious injury. Viking warriors relied heavily on their shields for protection and used their helmets as a backup defense.

It is important to note that not all Vikings wore helmets in battle. Some warriors preferred to fight without headgear, relying instead on their agility and skill to avoid injury.

The Purpose of Viking Helmets in Battle

Viking helmets played a crucial role in battle by providing some protection to the wearer’s head. However, they also had other functions.

Purpose Description
Identification Viking helmets were often decorated with symbols or designs that identified the wearer’s clan or status.
Intimidation The elaborate design of some Viking helmets, such as those with horns or intricate patterns, could intimidate opponents and give the wearer a psychological advantage in battle.
Communication Viking helmets could also be used to communicate with other warriors during battle. For example, the wearer might use a horn on their helmet to signal an attack or retreat.

Overall, Viking helmets were a crucial part of the Viking warrior’s arsenal, providing some protection to the head and serving other important functions in battle.

Viking Helmet Variations

The Viking Age saw the creation of various types of helmets that were designed to suit different combat scenarios. These helmets often varied in design, depending on the region they were made in and the preferences of individual craftsmen. Here are some of the most notable variations of Viking helmets:

Hjelm The Hjelm was a conical helmet with a rounded top and a nose guard. It was typically made out of iron and was the most common type of Viking helmet.
Gjermundbu The Gjermundbu was a spangenhelm-style helmet made of iron and characterized by its eyebrow-shaped opening at the front. It was discovered in a burial mound in Norway and is the only known complete Viking Age helmet.
Spangenhelm The Spangenhelm was a type of helmet constructed of iron plates held together by rivets. It had a round top with a nose guard and a mail aventail that covered the neck and shoulders.
Vendel-style The Vendel-style helmet was a high-spiked helmet with a curved peak that extended over the eyes. It was decorated with intricate designs and was typically made of iron or bronze.

Although these helmets had their unique features, they all shared a general shape and design that reflected the Viking’s practical approach to warfare. They often prioritized functionality over aesthetics, and as a result, the helmets were not as ornate as those of other cultures.

Viking Helmet Construction

Viking helmets were crafted by skilled artisans who used different techniques to shape and assemble them. These helmets were made from a variety of materials, including iron, bronze, and leather, and were designed to provide protection while being lightweight enough to wear during extended periods.

The design of Viking helmets varied based on regional preferences and the availability of materials. Some helmets were made with a rounded top and a nose guard, while others featured a pointed top and a chainmail curtain to protect the neck. The distinctive horns attached to some Viking helmets were usually made from hand-carved animal horns, although there is no evidence they were used in battle.

The process of constructing a Viking helmet began with shaping the metal into a dome shape. The metal was then worked to create the distinctive ridges and bands that provided additional strength and protection. Next, the helmet was polished, and any decorative elements, such as horns or intricate designs, were added.

Leather was often used for the straps and padding inside the helmet, offering a comfortable fit for the wearer. Some helmets featured a chainmail coif that protected the back of the neck and shoulders.

Overall, the construction of Viking helmets was a complex and intricate process, requiring skill and expertise from the helmet makers. The resulting headpieces were not only functional but also rich in symbolism and cultural significance, representing the power and courage associated with Viking warriors.

Viking Helmet Symbolism

The Viking helmet was more than just a piece of protective gear. It had symbolic significance and represented various cultural and spiritual beliefs held by the Viking people.

The horns on Viking helmets, often depicted in popular culture, were not actually present on authentic Viking helmets. Instead, Viking helmets featured a simple, conical shape that provided protection to the head and neck.

Despite the absence of horns, Viking helmets were still highly valued and held significant meaning. They symbolized courage, power, and strength in Viking society. The wearer of a helmet was seen as a respected and honored member of the community, as well as a skilled and formidable warrior.

Viking helmets were also associated with spirituality and the afterlife. Many Viking warriors believed that a good death in battle would lead to a place in the afterlife known as Valhalla, where they would continue to fight and be honored for eternity. As a result, Viking helmets were often adorned with intricate designs and symbols related to death and the afterlife.

Today, Viking helmets continue to hold a place in popular culture as a symbol of strength and power. They are often used in advertisements, fashion, and media as a nod to the Viking Age and its enduring legacy.

Viking Helmet Discoveries

Archaeological discoveries of Viking helmets have provided valuable insights into the craftsmanship and design of these ancient artifacts. One of the most significant discoveries was made in the Gjermundbu grave in Norway, where a complete helmet was found along with other weapons and artifacts. This helmet is believed to date back to the 10th century and is one of the few surviving examples of a Viking helmet with a nose guard.

Discovery Description
Sutton Hoo Helmet Discovered in England in 1939, this helmet is likely from the 7th century and is believed to have been made by craftsmen from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia. It features a decorative crest on top and is made from iron and copper alloy.
Yarm Helmet Discovered in England in the early 20th century, this helmet is believed to date back to the 8th century and is made from iron. It features a distinctive face mask and a crest that may have been used to intimidate enemies in battle.
Kentmere Helmet Discovered in England in 1983, this helmet is believed to date back to the 10th century and is made from iron. It features a unique design with a deep skull that provides extra protection and a distinctive nose guard.

These discoveries, along with other Viking artifacts, have contributed to our understanding of Viking society and their approach to warfare. They also highlight the advanced craftsmanship and design of Viking helmets and their enduring legacy.

Viking Helmets in Pop Culture

Viking helmets have captured the imagination of popular culture for decades, appearing in everything from movies and TV shows to video games and comic books. One of the most enduring images of Viking helmets in pop culture is the iconic horned helmet, often depicted as a symbol of fierce Viking warriors.

The earliest depictions of horned helmets on Viking warriors can be traced back to the 19th century, where they were popularized in Wagner’s opera “Der Ring des Nibelungen” and later in illustrations of Norse mythology. However, there is no historical evidence to suggest that Vikings actually wore horned helmets in battle.

Despite this, the image of the horned helmet has become synonymous with Vikings in popular culture. It has been featured in films such as “The Vikings” (1958) and “How to Train Your Dragon” (2010), as well as in TV shows like “Vikings” (2013-2020) and “The Last Kingdom” (2015-present).

Aside from the horned helmet, Viking helmets have been reimagined in numerous ways in popular culture. They have been depicted with wings, spikes, and other embellishments, as well as more historically accurate designs. Viking helmets have also made appearances in video games like “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” (2020) and “God of War” (2018), as well as in comic books and graphic novels.

The depiction of Viking helmets in popular culture has had a significant impact on how people perceive Viking history. While some representations have been accurate and informative, others have perpetuated myths and misconceptions. Despite this, the fascination with Viking helmets in pop culture shows no signs of abating.

Viking Helmet Collections and Museums

If you are interested in viewing authentic Viking helmets, there are several museums around the world that house impressive collections of these iconic headpieces. One such museum is the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, which features a variety of Viking helmets from different regions and time periods. The British Museum in London, England is also home to a remarkable collection of Viking helmets, including one of the most well-known examples, the Gjermundbu helmet.

Other notable museums with Viking helmet collections include the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, and the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg, Germany.

Visiting these museums is not only an opportunity to see Viking helmets up close, but also to learn about the cultural and historical significance of these artifacts. Through the careful preservation and display of these helmets, we can gain a greater understanding of the people who wore them and the world they inhabited.

Furthermore, the conservation of these helmets is crucial to their continued study and research. By maintaining these artifacts, we can ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to learn from and appreciate the legacy of Viking culture.

Viking Helmet Legacy

The legacy of Viking helmets is far-reaching and continues to fascinate scholars and enthusiasts alike. These ancient pieces of headgear provide invaluable insights into Viking culture and history, shedding light on the strategies and tactics used by Vikings in battle.

But Viking helmets are more than just functional pieces of armor. They are also symbols of courage, power, and status within Viking society, representing the bravery and skill of Vikings on the battlefield.

Today, Viking helmets continue to captivate popular imagination, appearing in movies, television shows, and even fashion. Their enduring legacy is a testament to the enduring fascination with Viking history and the lasting impact of Viking culture on our world.

As research and discoveries continue in the field of Viking studies, the significance of Viking helmets only grows, providing new insights into the lives and beliefs of these ancient warriors. By preserving and studying these artifacts, we can gain a deeper understanding of the Viking Age and its enduring legacy.


In conclusion, Viking helmets were more than just practical headgear used for protection in battle. They were complex artifacts imbued with deep cultural and spiritual significance, reflecting the values and beliefs of Viking society. From their origins and design to their purpose and symbolism, Viking helmets continue to intrigue and captivate people around the world.

Preserving Viking History

Through archaeological discoveries and ongoing research, we are continually learning more about the craftsmanship and design of Viking helmets. The efforts of museums and collections in preserving these artifacts are crucial in maintaining our understanding of Viking history and culture.

Legacy of Viking Helmets

The legacy of Viking helmets extends beyond their use in battle and their symbolic importance in Viking society. They are a lasting reminder of the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and creativity of the Viking people. As we continue to explore and learn more about Viking history, Viking helmets remain an iconic symbol of this fascinating period in human history.


Q: Are Viking helmets actually historically accurate?

A: Contrary to popular belief, Viking helmets with horns or wings are not historically accurate. The image of Vikings wearing horned helmets is a misconception that originates from artistic depictions in the 19th century.

Q: What did Viking helmets actually look like?

A: Viking helmets were typically made of iron or steel and featured a conical or rounded shape without any horns or wings. They often had a nose guard and sometimes had cheek or neck guards for added protection.

Q: Did Viking helmets provide full head protection?

A: Viking helmets provided partial head protection, mainly covering the top and sides of the head. They were not designed to cover the entire face or have full face shields. The level of protection varied depending on the design and materials used.

Q: What was the purpose of Viking helmets?

A: Viking helmets served primarily as a form of protection in battle. They helped shield the wearer’s head from blows and projectiles, providing a certain level of defense during combat.

Q: Were Viking helmets commonly worn by all Vikings?

A: The use of Viking helmets varied among individuals and regions. While some Vikings may have worn helmets, it is believed that helmets were not commonly worn by all warriors or in everyday life.

Q: Where can I see authentic Viking helmets?

A: Authentic Viking helmets can be seen in several museums around the world. Notable collections can be found in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, the British Museum in London, and the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.