Vikings Had Horns on their Helmets

Vikings had horns on their helmets.

Don’t believe that!

The image of a Viking warrior is firmly planted in our collective minds from film and television portrayals. No part of that depiction is more iconic that the metal helmet with large, pointed horns on each side. Problem is, there is no evidence that Vikings ever wore helmets with horns.

The Vikings were a Germanic Norse seafaring people who traveled, raided and conquered wide areas of Northern and Central Europe and beyond during the late 8th to late 11th centuries, from their homelands in the modern Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

Excavations of Viking artifacts, and studies of art from the period, have indicated that Viking warriors wore plain helmets with no adornments (many, perhaps most, wore no helmet at all). There is some archaeological evidence that horned headwear existed roughly during the Viking Age, but it appears to have only been used for religious ceremonies.

The origin of this myth can probably be sourced to early Greek and Roman writers, who learned of the horned helmets but were unaware of their ceremonial purpose. These writings eventually influenced art depictions of Viking warriors in battle scenes.

In 1876, the costume designer for a production of Wagner’s epic opera Der Ring des Nibelungen created horned helmets for the singers. The opera did not depict Vikings but rather Germanic gods and heroes, and was set in a mythological past, not the Viking age. Nonetheless, this stage production firmly planted the association in the public consciousness, one that still persists today.


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