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A ridged helmet.

A helmet in a brown metal mostly covered in light green. It has a rectangular cutout in the front for the face. Running from the back to the front there are two parallel pointed ridges. There are also the barest indications of smaller parallel ridges on either side of those two central ones. There is a simple line border around the face cutout, aside from that there is no other surface decoration.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Open-Faced Helmet of the Illyrian Type
Work Type
mid 6th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Northern Greece
Archaic period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

29 x 19.7 x 23.1 cm, 1270 g (11 7/16 x 7 3/4 x 9 1/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 91.61; Sn, 7.86; Pb, 0.09; Zn, 0.013; Fe, 0.09; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.03; Sb, 0.04; As, 0.25; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Chemical Composition: EMP analysis from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 90.68; Sn, 8.02; Pb, 0.05; Zn, 0.00; Fe, 0.08; Ni, 0.01; Ag, 0.02; Sb, 0.01; As, 0.12

M. McNamara, October 2000

Technical Observations: The helmet is in a good condition. There is a small loss from the bottom front edge of the proper left cheek guard. The exterior of the top has been abraded, possibly as part of a restoration. There are small fills and repairs on the surface.

The helmet was made from one piece of metal. X-radiographs show long narrow hammer marks in a semicircular pattern. X-radiographs also demonstrate that the hole on the intact cheek guard was punched, as the edges are dense and curve inward. The front edges of the cheek guards are heavily mineralized. There is no evidence of porosity, gates, risers, or chaplets from casting. A spotted pale green patina with thicker areas of blue colored corrosion covers the interior surfaces. The interior of the proper right cheek has a pseudomorph resembling a matted down, fibrous material. While this could be from a lining material, it resembles human hair more.

Metallographic examination of the helmet reveals intergranular corrosion that confirms the metal is ancient. Extensive deformation lines and both straight and bent annealing twins indicate numerous cycles of hammering and annealing. Compressed and elongated grains and inclusions indicate that the ridge along the bottom edge of the helmet was formed by upsetting, that is, it was hammered back into itself. There is no evidence of coring, a dendritic structure, or porosity, all of which are microstructural features consistent with casting. The thickness of the metal varies from 0.1 to 1.9 cm.

Molly McNamara (submitted 2000)


Recorded Ownership History
[Sotheby's, London, November 14, 1966, lot 175, sold]; to Frederick M. Watkins, New Haven, CT, bequest; to the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1972.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
Raised ridges decorate the top of this open-faced Illyrian helmet, with two main ridges, triangular in profile, flanked by lower, curving raised lines. The top hemisphere of the dome of the helmet is more bulbous than the rest. The neck guard projects out perpendicularly 2.2 cm from the bottom of the neck. The cheek pieces are straight at the front and have a gentle curve on the underside. A narrow beaded border is present in a straight line above the eyes and along the edges of the cheek pieces, ending at the neck guard. A hole in the center of the visor may have once had a rivet, a decoration characteristic of a subvarient of this helmet type (1). Perforations in each cheek piece and in the dome may indicate where decorations were attached to the helmet or where lining was secured to the interior (2).

Illyrian helmets with known findspots come predominately from the Dalmatian coast and the southern Balkans (3).


1. Type III, variant 1. For a discussion of the evolution, decoration, and distribution of Illyrian helmets, see H. Pflug, “Illyrische Helme,” in Antike Helme: Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Forschungsinstitut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte Monographien 14 (Mainz, 1988) 42-64. For a discussion of the riveted variant, see ibid., 53-54. See also See E. Kunze, “Der sogennannte illyrische Helm,” Olympia Bericht Vol. 6 (1958): 125-51.

2. See the Technical Observations.

3. Pflug 1988 (supra 1) 57, fig. 14.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973), p. 28-29, no. 8.
  • Hermann Pflug, "Illyrische Helme", Antike Helme: Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Verlag des Römisch-Germanischennak Zentralmuseum (Mainz, 1988), 42-64, pp. 61-62.
  • Molly McNamara, "Technical Studies of Four Ancient Greek Helmets in the Collection of the Harvard University Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, October 2000), Unpublished, pp. 1-59 passim
  • Molly McNamara, "Technical Studies of Four Ancient Greek Helmets at the Harvard University Art Museums", I Bronzi Antichi: Produzione e Technologia, ed. Alessandra Giumlia-Mair, Editions Monique Mergoil (Montagnac, 2002), 281-283, figs. 1 and 3.
  • Katherine Eremin and Josef Riederer, "Analytical Approaches to Ancient Bronzes", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 64-91, pp. 68-69, fig. 3.2.a-b.
  • Henry Lie and Francesca Bewer, "Ex Aere Factum: Technical Notes on Ancient Bronzes", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 38-63, p. 61, fig. 2.18.a-b.
  • Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), pp. 61, 66, 152, fig. 2.18a-b; pp. 68-69, fig. 3.2a-b

Exhibition History

  • The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/31/1973 - 03/14/1973
  • 32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/11/2015 - 05/10/2015; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2021 - 01/02/2022

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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