The Ravens Warband

The Ulltuna Helmet

Picture of an Ulltuna helmet

The Ulltuna helmet is one of a series from Sweden dating from the 6th-8th centuries, including the Valsgarde and Vendel finds. Ulltuna has been dated at broadly 7th-8th century, but as it lacks much in the way of decoration, any dating is problematic.

Ulltuna's relatively simple construction suggested it as a candidate for reconstruction, as only hand tools were available. Its construction is based on a brow band, and a "crest" band, to which are riveted a number of narrow metal strips in a criss-cross arrangement. The crest band terminates in a snub nasal, and has a bronze crest riveted to it running the length of the helmet. As reconstructed, there are also five hinged metal plates protecting the cheeks and neck. A fur-lined leather cap has been made to act as padding.

The helmet cannot be claimed to be an exact replica of Ulltuna. The crest is made from solid brass rather than D-section tube, and is closer in design to the crest on the Valsgarde V helmet than the one on the original Ulltuna helmet. Both these changes were made to suit the materials and tools available. The metal plates at the side and back of the helmet were also reconstructed from the example of Valsgarde V, as only one survives on the Ulltuna helmet.

The helmet weighs some 4 lb in use, although 1 lb of this is attributable to the solid crest construction, and the criss-cross strips are probably thicker than their original counterparts. The neck guards need to be finely adjusted in order to ride clear of the wearer's shoulders, but they are effective in turning a sideways-directed swordblow downwards and hence rendering it ineffective. The nasal, although short, is still capable of catching a swordblow between itself and the forward neck guard.

The technique of the "basketwork" construction was surprisingly easy to master and the resulting bowl is rigid in use and would have been an effective protection against anything but arrows. The neck guards are probably no more or no less effective a protection than a ringmail tippet. Both these constructional techniques presumably are much easier to master than beaten bowl construction or manufacture of ring mail.

The most accessible reference in English to this helmet (and contemporary Swedish helmets) is probably in Dominic Tweddle's "The Anglian helmet from 16-22 Coppergate" (York Archaeological Trust, 1992, ISBN 1 872414 19 2), pp 1090-1125.

Ulltuna helmet Ulltuna helmet Ulltuna helmet

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