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Superb Illyrian Bronze Hoplite Helmet

Northwestern Greece, Illyria, Archaic period, ca. late 7th to 6th centuries BCE. A war helmet made of hammered bronze sheet, with a rectilinear opening for the face, long, pointed cheek pieces, horizontal ribbing on the forehead framing the upper facial opening, and twin parallel ridges on the crown, each flanked by a group of three later ribs in low relief, engraved band between. The back and sides flare out to guard the neck and has three perforations for attachment of leather liner. This example has a rich, blue-green patina and is a somewhat more impressive example of Type II, variant A, with a more pronounced dome-like form. Size: 8.5" W x 10" H (21.6 cm x 25.4 cm); 14.5" H (36.8 cm) on included custom stand.

For a discussion of Type II, variant A, see Angelo Bottini et. al. Antike Helme (Mainz, 1988) pp. 48-52, and ef. Figs. 7-8, p. 49. These helmets were particularly popular in northern Greece, in the province of Illyria, in the modern day Balkans. They were made for hoplites, the citizen-soldiers of the Greek city states, who often furnished their own bronze armor. As a result, regional styles developed, and there is a great deal of variation in shape and form.

Armor was not just for battle, however. The lack of rivets on this example show that this was made for parades or to be worn in death. On a battle helmet, those rivets would have been real, to attach to a leather guard. Excavations at Sindos in Macedonia, a necropolis with the remains of Greek soldiers, have found that there was a standardized and probably ritualized method for burial. This included the placement of armor in carefully proscribed areas of the body. The helmet was placed over the head, along with a strip of gold over the mouth and possibly others over the eyes.

See similar examples to this helmet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1992.180.1, 2006.221, 2003.407.6) and the Louvre (CA 2221Or).

Condition: In remarkable condition. Small repair to back crest and reattachment to one cheek piece. XRF showing metal composition to accompany this piece.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection

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