Iron Age, 150-50 BC
From the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge, London, England
A helmet for a god?
This 'helmet' was dredged from the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge in the early 1860s. It is the only Iron Age helmet to have ever been found in southern England, and it is the only Iron Age helmet with horns ever to have been found anywhere in Europe. Horns were often a symbol of the gods in different parts of the ancient world. This might suggest the person who wore this was a special person, or that the helmet was made for a god to wear. Like the Deal Crown, this was more of a symbolic head-dress than actual protection for the head in battle. The person who wore the helmet would need a modern hat size of 7.
Like many other objects, especially weapons, this helmet was found in the River Thames. These include the Battersea Shield, which was also made for conspicuous display rather than use in war.
The helmet is made from sheet bronze pieces held together with many carefully placed bronze rivets. It is decorated with the style of La Tene art used in Britain between 250 and 50 BC. The repousse decoration is repeated on the back and the front. Originally, the bronze helmet would have been a shining polished bronze colour, not the dull green colour it is today. It was also once decorated with studs of bright red glass. The decoration is similar to that on the Snettisham Great Torc.
Height: 24.2 cm
Circumference: 58.5 cm
Gift of the Port of London Authority
P&EE 1988 10-4 1
Room 50, Later Bronze Age & Celtic Europe, case 9
S. James & V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Age (London, The British Museum Press, 1997), p.25, plate 26.
I.M. Stead, Celtic art (London, The British Museum Press, 1987, revised edition 1997).
Related objects & informations:
Skull and crown of the 'Deal Warrior'
The Great Torc from Snettisham
Front-plate and chape from a dagger sheath
River Thames spearhead
Early Celtic or La Tene art
Britain in the Iron Age