The Broe helmet (also known as the Broa helmet) is a decorated iron helmet from around the Vendel Period. It was discovered in 1904 in a cremation grave in Broe, a farm on the Swedish island Gotland. Due to its extremely fragmented condition, only an incomplete reconstruction of the helmet is possible.
The Broe helmet survives in a fragmentary state, with a speculative artistic reconstruction. When whole, it included an iron cap, likely constructed in sections, with both a brow band and a nose-to-nape band. The latter band, along which traces of ornamental bronze sheeting survive, terminated above the eyebrows with an animal head, its eyes formed with inlaid garnets. A fragment of the nose-to-nape band retains an animal-head impression that does not match the surviving head, suggesting that a second animal head terminal adorned the rear of the helmet.[note 1] Strips of iron hanging from the brow band provided neck and cheek protection. The one surviving cheek piece is fragmentary, but appears to have extended deeply. Further strips extended from the nose-to-nape band to cover the nose, and encircled the eyes to protect the face. Over the eyes ran an ornamental eyebrow piece, made of iron inlaid with thin strips of another material—possibly silver—and terminating in an animal head on either side.
The helmet may once have appeared similar, in some respects, to the Vendel XIV helmet. Both had deep hinged plates protecting the cheeks and neck, a flat crest terminating in animal heads, and ornamented eyebrows. The Broe example is too fragmentary, however, for its exact design to be determined.
Difficult to date by itself, the Broe helmet and finds from the same site appear characteristic of early Migration Period style. Certain features of the Broe helmet, particularly its eyebrow piece, are similar to helmets and fragments found in Gotland, such as the Lokrume helmet fragment, and on the mainland, in Uppland. In particular, the Broe helmet's similarities to the Vendel XIV helmet, which has been variously dated from 520 to 625 AD, may suggest a comparable date; ornamented iron fragments in each burial, unrelated to the helmets, even bear the same stamped design.
The Broe helmet fits into the corpus of "crested helmets" known in Northern Europe from the 6th through the 11th centuries AD. Such helmets were characterized by a rounded cap and usually a prominent nose-to-nape crest. Other than a Viking Age fragment found in Kiev, they uniformly originate from England or Scandinavia. More than half of the known examples are from Sweden; up to twenty are from Gotland alone, although these were typically found in cremation burials and comprise only a fragment or two.
Brow band with hinge
- It is unclear from the surviving fragments which animal head went on the front of the helmet, and which went on the rear. Either the nose-to-nape band fragment with the impression went on the front, and the surviving animal head on the back, or the band fragment went on the back, and the surviving animal head on the front.
- Nerman 1969a, Fig. 601.
- Tweddle 1992, p. 1106.
- Nerman 1975, p. 29.
- Tweddle 1992, p. 1105.
- Bruce-Mitford 1978, p. 158 n.3.
- Arwidsson 1977, p. 27.
- Tweddle 1992, pp. 1104–1105.
- Tweddle 1992, pp. 1105–1109.
- Månadsblad 1907, p. 169.
- Nerman 1969b, p. 13.
- Lindqvist 1925, p. 193.
- Bruce-Mitford 1978, p. 209.
- Tweddle 1992, p. 1109.
- Månadsblad 1907, fig. 222.
- Stolpe & Arne 1912, pl. XLII, figs. 2–3.
- Stolpe & Arne 1927, pl. XLII, figs. 2–3.
- Steuer 1987, pp. 199–203, 230–231.
- Tweddle 1992, pp. 1083, 1086.
- Tweddle 1992, p. 1083.
- Steuer 1987, pp. 199–200.
- Tweddle 1992, pp. 1086–1087, 1125.
- Nerman 1969a, figs. 600–620.
- Nerman 1975, pp. 29–30.
- Steuer 1987, pp. 199–200, 230–231.
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- Steuer, Heiko (1987). "Helm und Ringschwert: Prunkbewaffnung und Rangabzeichen germanischer Krieger". In Häßler, Hans-Jürgen (ed.). Studien zur Sachsenforschung (in German). 6. Hildesheim: Lax. pp. 189–236. ISBN 3-7848-1617-7.
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- French edition of Stolpe & Arne 1912
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