• latw-211-10
    Helmet, probably belonging to one of the soldiers discarded near the fortification (No. 211), with modern replica. Front view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • latw-211-20
    Helmet, probably belonging to one of the soldiers discarded near the fortification (No. 211), with modern replica. Side view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • latw-211-30
    Drawing of helmet (No. 211), front and side. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • latw-211-40
    Drawing of helmet (No. 211) showing construction. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Iron helmet trimmed with bronze

Date
ca. 570-540s BC, Lydian
Museum
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 7810
Inventory No.
7810
Sardis CATNUM
M87.007
Material
Iron, Bronze
Object Type
Metalwork
Metalwork Type
Weapon or Armor
Site
Sardis
Sector
MMS
Trench
MMS-III 87.1
Locus
MMS-III 87.1 Locus 6
Description
Fragments of a helmet including skull-piece with scalloped brow, two cheek-pieces (only the more complete exhibited), and neck guard, all once iron, now mostly corrosion products; trim consisting of bronze (and some iron) cords and multi-part bronze finial. There may have been an iron nose guard. The skull-piece is formed of eight triangular plates, mounted in radial arrangement on an interior armature of eight iron band-shaped ribs. Seams between triangular plates are masked, and skull-piece edges are contoured by three cords, side ones of bronze, central ones of iron, all articulated with bead-and-reel pattern. The attachment method used for plates and ribs is uncertain, but for structural reasons probably was mechanical, although rivets were not obviously identifiable in X-radiographs (the separation of ribs and plates in several places and the dislocation of one rib from its plate is inconsistent with hammer-welded bonding of the strength required for such armor). Plates and cords were mechanically attached by rivets. A four-part finial of bronze was attached to the top of the skull-piece by an iron cotter pin. Cheek-pieces had triangular, semi-lunate shape, were hinged (in knuckle-and-pintle arrangement), and were edged on their outsides with bronze bead-and-reel cords. Small attachment holes at the edges of skull-piece, cheek-piece, and neck guard indicate a lining, and pseudomorphs on the inside surface of the neck guard attest one of leather, identified as goat skin by Özcan Sarı of the Aegean University. A larger hole near the tip of the cheek-piece probably secured a chin strap. Height from front “widow’s peak” to top of finial 0.177 m, height of cheek-piece 0.137 m, restored width 0.197 m, restored depth 0.215 m. Total weight of fragments 1138.3 g, or 2.5 lbs.
Comments
Helmet remains were recovered encased in dumped destruction debris of the mid-sixth century BC, in an exterior recess of the city wall at Sardis. A few meters away, also encased in the same destruction debris, rested the skeleton of a man in his early 20s (No. 210), who may have worn the helmet. The original helmet metal (i.e., apart from the leather lining) might have weighed 1.8-2.5 kg (4-5.5 lbs). The unusual design and construction of the skull-piece anticipates that of Roman and Late Roman Spangenhelme (depicted on Trajan’s Column in Rome and attested by examples of the Late Roman era). The only other example of such skull-piece design and construction approximately contemporaneous with No. 211 occurs in another iron helmet that was recovered in destruction debris of ca. 600 BC at Old Smyrna (personal communication from the excavator, J. K. Anderson). The destruction debris at Old Smyrna was associated by its excavators with a Lydian attack in the time of King Alyattes (Herodotus 1.16); common Lydian associations of the two helmets are evidence that they and their “proto-Spangenhelm” design may be Lydian.
Discussed
Greenewalt, “Introduction”; Cahill, “City of Sardis”; Cahill, “Persian Sack”
Bibliography
Greenewalt and Heywood 1992, 1-31; Greenewalt 1992; Greenewalt 1997, 12-13, 19; Smith 1997; Dedeoğlu 2003, 70, fig.
Author
CHG