Horned helmets predate the Vikings by 3,000 years, originating in the Bronze Age, researchers say


By Sana Noor Haq, CNN

From appearing in the Asterix comic book series to the inspiration of an avatar on “The Masked Singer,” Vikings have revealed themselves through pop culture with horned helmets to symbolize their ferocity and power.

However, two horned helmets first discovered in Viksø, Denmark, date back to Sardinia in the Bronze Age – dispelling myths that they originated from the Viking Age, according to research published in the historical journal Praehistorische Zeitschrift in December.

“For many years in popular culture, people associated Viksø helmets with Vikings,” said Helle Vandkilde, an archaeologist at Aarhus University in Denmark who participated in the research, in a press release sent to CNN.

“But our research confirms that the helmets were deposited in the bog around 900 BC, nearly 3,000 years ago and several centuries before the Vikings or Scandinavians dominated the area.”

Similar images of horned helmets were identified during the Bronze Age in Sardinia, the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula and southern Scandinavia, according to the study.

During the Bronze Age in Sardinia, symbols of horned creatures such as bulls had religious significance and were often used to decorate Neolithic tombs.

The motif of the horned helmet is linked to the Iberian Peninsula through the expansion of Phoenician society to the west, research suggests. The Phoenicians were a group of people who inhabited the Levantine coast in the eastern Mediterranean, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Phoenician sea routes coincide with the addition of Scandinavia to the network, exposing a Mediterranean-Atlantic sea route in the Baltic Sea. The helmets would not have been transported by land, as “the otherwise flourishing transalpine trade route appears to have been inactive in disseminating the image of the horned warrior hero,” the researchers said.

“Our study shows that Scandinavian depictions of horned warriors occur at the same time as very similar images in Sardinia and southwestern Spain. This testifies to the close links between the great civilizations of Bronze Age Europe; the first globalization based on long-distance trade in metals, ideas and luxury goods, ”added Vandkilde.

“The horned warriors in Scandinavia, Sardinia and Spain are all associating with new political regimes supported by metal control and new religious beliefs.”

Those who wore horned helmets would have been considered “the quintessential warrior,” the researchers said.

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