In the ancient world, very few people were truly secular. The spiritual world was everywhere, and that included a fear of harmful spirits. You can see remnants of this in ancient architecture that contains protection symbols and the like. You can also see it in masks and combat helmets.
There is a tight link between the two. Some masks were also meant to protect, just like helmets. This type of protection was spiritual. Masks, just like helmets, could also intimidate. Sometimes, these types of headcover were meant to fend off both spiritual and physical offenders alike. In this article, we will be taking an up-close look at 7 ancient helmets. We will observe how similar they are to a ceremonial mask, and examine each helmet's archeological, cultural, and historical background.
1. Japanese Samurai helmet
The Age of Samurai in Japan lasted several centuries - from 1185 to 1868. They were considered warrior royalty. This mask is a fine example of how their combat masks were made. The visual design followed the shape of a mountain spirit or devil, meant to evoke fear in the enemy. The mask was made of metal and decorated with precious metals, fur, feathers, or antlers.
2. Ribchester helmet
This mask, dating from around the first or second centuries, is not a battle mask. That is why the face part can function as a dynamic visor. It is made of copper alloy, and it was found in northwest England. On the back, some decorations depict an active battle, but the helmet itself was mainly used in sporting events and for ceremonial purposes.
3. Murmillo gladiator helmet
Encyclopedia Britannica defines the gladiators as "professional combatants in ancient Rome." They participated in violent show fights meant for the public's entertainment. But do not be deceived by the wording- there was no mercy, nor fake blood in these fights that often had a death toll. As you can see, this mask has a crest. It was originally adorned with horsehair.
4. Horned Helmet of Henry VIII
This one has a strange futuristic style to it, would you agree? The exact origins of the helmet are unknown, but historians believe it was a gift sent to the king from the Roman Emperor Maximilian I in 1514 AD.
5. Mycenaean boar's tusk helmet
In my opinion, this one easily takes the crown of being the most unique helmet on the list. Can you guess what it's made of? It was excavated from a chamber tomb in Greece. The word Mycenaean describes the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, whereas the boar gives us a clue as to what this mask is made of- ivory! You can find descriptions of the type of mask in Homer's Iliad, a canonic ancient Greek epic text.
6. Bronze Age Horned Helmet
Another helmet from the Bronze Age, this one is 3,000 years old! Found some 60 years ago in Denmark, this helmet was decorated with the beak and eyes of a large bird of prey as an intimidating element meant to reinforce the wearer.
7. Celtic parade helmet
Finishing off our list is this ravishing parade helmet made entirely of gold. It is dated to be from around 350 BC, and it has attributes of the Celtic culture. The helmet was found in a cave in western France.