More than horned helmets. A personal top five of prehistoric headdresses
People have always been inventive when it comes to clothing. Much of prehistoric fashion made from organic materials is gone for good. What is however preserved is a wide range of headgear made from more durable materials. And some of these headdresses from prehistory are really astonishing. Here is my personal top 5 of what you would wear in prehistory.
1-Being a shaman, 8.000 BC, in Northern Europe
Let´s start with the famous Star Carr headdress, from the Mesolithic, c. 8.000 BC. It is worked from a red deer antler frontlet. Around 20 similar finds are known from the continent, e.g. from Biesdorf, Hohen Viecheln, Königshoven, Plau and Poggenwisch. They have been interpreted as camouflage worn by hunters, but also as paraphernalia of shamans.
The interpretation as part of the costume of shamans is very much based on historic analogies. Here is the earliest known western depiction of a Siberian shaman wearing a similar headdress, by Nicholaes Witsen (17th century).
2-Looking smashing while smashing your enemies, in 14th century BC Greece
A helmet made from boar tusks sewn on textile, found in a shaft grave at the Bronze Age fortress of Mycenae, Greece. This is not only some impressive headgear, but also a very early incident of (slightly later) written sources perfectly matching the European Bronze Age archaeological record.
Homer, Iliad 10.260–5: “On the inside there was a strong lining on interwoven straps, onto which a felt cap had been sewn in. The outside was cleverly adorned all around with rows of white tusks from a shiny-toothed boar, the tusks running in alternate directions in each row.”
3-Same job description, in 1000–800 BC Denmark
You may have heard that Viking horned helmets are largely a modern invention. Bronze Age horned helmets however are very real. Two were found in a peat bog near Veksø, Denmark, in 1942. They are made from bronze, feature large s-shaped horns and two large bosses suggesting eyes. They may have been adorned with hair or feathers fixed in the fittings between the horns.
4-Being a priest in southern Germany, 1000–800 BC
The Berlin Gold Hat, made from thin gold foil, is about 75 cm high. A total of four such finds are known from southern Germany and France. The cone is covered all over with geometric motifs, which some have interpreted as representing an early calendar. It is assumed that the gold hats served as insignia of priests or other high-ranking persons.
5-Going to battle in style, in 4th century BC Romania
This Celtic helmet was found in a grave near Ciumeşti in Romania. Featuring a large bird on top, it may have been a little impractical in battle, but looks really impressive nonetheless.