Coppergate Helmet

Coordinates: 53°57′39″N 1°04′59″W / 53.960934°N 1.083183°W / 53.960934; -1.083183

Coppergate Helmet

The Anglian Helmet from Coppergate, York
Material Iron, brass containing 85% copper
Created 8th century
Discovered 1982 Coppergate York
Present location Yorkshire Museum

The Coppergate Helmet (also known as York Helmet) is an 8th-century Anglo-Saxon helmet found in York. It is remarkably well preserved and is one of only four Anglo-Saxon helmets discovered to date. The partial remains of a fifth helmet were found in the Staffordshire Hoard.


Like many other helmets of Germanic Western and Northern Europe in the Early Middle Ages the construction of Coppergate helmet is derivative of Late Roman helmet types.[1]

It has a rounded composite skull, the iron elements making up the skull are riveted together. Two deep cheek-pieces are attached to the skull by hinges. A mail curtain (camail) is attached to the lower rim of the helmet behind the cheek-pieces to defend the wearer's neck and an unusually large nose-guard (nasal) provided facial protection. The mail is remarkable in consisting of forge-welded links, rather than the far more common riveted links.[2] It is richly decorated with brass ornamentation. On analysis, the helmet was found to be made of iron, with applied brass-work containing approximately 85 percent copper.[3] Its basic construction is almost identical to another surviving Anglo-Saxon helmet, the Pioneer helmet. It is also very like the helmets depicted being worn by Anglo-Saxon Northumbrian cavalrymen on one of the Pictish Aberlemno Sculptured Stones, believed to depict the Battle of Dun Nechtain of 685.[4]


Northumbrian cavalrymen (right) wearing helmets remarkably similar to the Coppergate Helmet. Pictish memorial stone at Aberlemno.

The helmet has two low crests of brass, one running from front to back the other from side to side, forming a cross shape when viewed from above. The brass banding within the crests bears a Latin inscription:

"In the name of our Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God; and to all we say Amen / Oshere / Christ"

An alternative interpretation suggests the following translation:

"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Spirit of God, let us offer up Oshere to All Saints. Amen."[5]

Oshere is a male Anglian name and XPI are the first three letters of the word Christos Χριστός (khristos) in Greek.[3]

The brass crest terminates in a decorative animal head at the base of the nasal. The brass eyebrow decorations which flank the nasal also terminate in animal heads. The decoration of the nasal itself consists of two intertwined beasts, whose bodies and limbs degenerate into interlace ornament.[6]

Discovery and conservation

The helmet had been hidden in a well found near what is now the JORVIK Viking Centre, and was damaged as it was uncovered by a mechanical digger in 1982. It is now in the Yorkshire Museum.[7]


  1. James, S. (1986) Evidence from Dura Europos for the Origins of Late Roman Helmets. In: Syria, T. 63, Fasc. 1/2 (1986), pp. 107–134. Published by: Institut Francais du Proche-Orient, p. 134
  2. D. Tweddle, The Anglian Helmet from Coppergate, Archaeology of York 17/8, York Archaeological Trust 1992
  3. 1 2 "Coppergate SKP". Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB. 2007-09-26. Archived from the original on February 9, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  4. Cruickshank, Graeme (1985), Nechtansmere 1300: A Commemoration, Forfar: Forfar & District Historical Society.
  5. "Antiquity Vol 64:242, 1990 pp 134-139 - J. W. Binns et al. - The Latin inscription on the Coppergate helmet". Retrieved 2009-02-15.
  6. Wilson, David M. (1984) Anglo-Saxon Art. Thames and Hudson, pp. 67-69.
  7. Tweddle, Dominic (1992). The Anglian Helmet from Coppergate. Council for British Archaeology.

See also

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