See a Restored Ancient Roman Helmet—and Two Shiny New Replicas

The 2,000-year-old Hallaton Helmet is now on permanent display at the Harborough Museum in England

Two helmets
The first-century C.E. helmet alongside a newly created replica Leicestershire County Council Museums

Over 20 years ago, amateur archaeologists found what looked like a “rusty bucket” in an English field. The hunk of metal was initially dismissed, but further examination revealed its true identity: The artifact was a 2,000-year-old Roman helmet, once worn by a cavalry officer during the Roman Empire’s early occupation of Britain.

Known as the “Hallaton Helmet,” the artifact was unearthed by the Hallaton Fieldwork Group and the University of Leicester Archaeological Services. Now, after “years of painstaking reconstruction work,” the piece is on display at the Harborough Museum in Leicestershire, the central England county where it was discovered, per a statement from the Leicestershire County Council.

“We are excited to have the Hallaton Helmet back with us at Harborough Museum for people to view,” says Christine Radford, a local cabinet member, in the statement. “This re-display would not be possible without the amazing conservation and reconstruction work [that] has been undertaken.”

Ancient helmet
The helmet is on display at the Harborough Museum, encased with five loose cheekpieces found in the same field in the early 2000s. Leicestershire County Council Museums

Conservators from London’s British Museum carefully restored the helmet “to approximately 80 percent completion,” writes Artnet’s Adnan Qiblawi. Created in the early first century C.E., the artifact is made of silver-gilded iron, per the county council.

Its components include a bowl, seven cheekpieces and various fragments, many of which were carefully decorated. The brow guard sports a goddess-like figure flanked by lions. The cheekpieces feature a Roman emperor riding alongside the Roman goddess Victory, while a “cowering figure” is shown beneath them, “possibly symbolizing a native Briton,” writes Artnet.

“It is one of a handful of silver-plated helmets ever found in Europe,” Helen Sharp, curator of archaeology at Leicestershire County Council museums, tells BBC News’ Greig Watson. “It is extremely high status; it would have been worn by an extremely high-status officer, and it just shows how well connected the Leicester area was at the time.”

The Hallaton Helmet is part of the larger “Hallaton Treasure,” a collection of discoveries made at the same Iron Age site in the early 2000s. The treasure also includes over 5,000 gold and silver coins, a silver bowl, silver ingots and animal bones, all buried during the Roman Empire’s conquest of Britain.

With the helmet on view, the museum can now display “all of the key finds” from the collection together for the first time, writes the county council.

Rajesh Gogna created a 3D-printed replica using a scan of the ancient helmet. Leicestershire County Council Museums

The ancient armor is also accompanied by some sparkling new additions: two replicas showing what the helmet may have looked like when it was made. The first replica is the work of Rajesh Gogna, a Leicestershire-based silversmith. Gogna used a scan of the helmet to create a 3D-printed model in resin, which he decorated with silver and gold.

The second was handcrafted by Italian archaeologist Francesco Galluccio, who tried to recreate the traditional methods the Romans may have used.

“The work started over a year ago and was carried out with intense and continuous collaboration with the museum’s management, succeeding in creating an incredible result,” Galluccio tells BBC News. “The reconstruction … is based only on the actual existing pieces.”

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