Gjermundbu Helmet: By Alliance Group Járnborg – Viking Age Living History

This photo features our member Kevin/Kjartan in his fighting helmet, which is a close reproduction of the helmet remains found at Gjermundbu Farm in Buskerud County, Norway in 1943 and dated to the 10th century. Contrary to popular claims, it is not the only known helmet from Viking Period Scandinavia nor is it a complete helmet (only about 25%-30% was actually found), but it is the one helmet find which is complete enough to know the overall construction.

Based on the remaining fragments, the Gjermundbu helmet consisted of four triangular plates which where hammered to fit together into a domed shape. At each joint they were sandwiched between a flat band underneath and a curved band on top, which were riveted together. A single flat band ran front to back with two separate bands for the sides, and on the front-to-back band a spike was attached at the top, centered between the four triangular plates. A broad, mostly flat band was riveted to the rim of this dome, and a mask was then attached to it at the front. The mask itself was two parts, forge welded together and riveted along the top portion. Forty lines were also incised around the eyes and across the nasal portion near the bottom, to which a lead-copper-tin alloy was applied based on trace analysis.

Around the rim, five rings were found among holes made near the edge. These have been argued as being remains of an aventail, but they were more likely part of a suspension system as the rings themselves are thicker than what is usually used for maille and they appear to have been butted rather than solid or riveted. It is possible that a maille aventail was directly suspended from these rings, or from a wire which was passed through them.

The Gjermundbu find is the most complete among several helmet related finds from Viking Period Scandinavia. Other fragments of helmet masks were found at Tjele and Lokrume, as well as one in Kyiv which was likely of Scandinavian origin. These and the Gjermundbu remains suggest that spectacle helmets were the norm in Scandinavia, and also that it was a standard for the masks to be decorated, as they all feature remains of some sort of copper alloy decoration on the steel base.

Thanks to Tomáš Vlasatý of Project Forlǫg for his excellent article which provided much of the details of the original Gjermundbu helmet. The article can be found here:

Photography and blog by William Goetz

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