Skeptics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientific skepticism. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Do we have more archaeological evidence than the artists and writers in the Romatic period to support the idea that Vikings don't wear horned helmets in battles?

Would "common sense" be a sufficient reason to support such an idea (that warriors wearing horned helmets are more easily caught and killed by enemies)?

share|improve this question
... evidence to support that they don't wear horned helmets? Surely, the burden of proof should be quite the opposite? – David Hedlund May 17 '11 at 8:29
up vote 24 down vote accepted

We don't have any evidence they did wear horned helmets.

Weapon - A Visual History Of Arms And Armor, describes viking equipment on pages 53-56; the most common viking helmets were the simple metal plated helmet, Gjermundbu-style helmets and Wenceslas helmets.

Horned helmets are not even mentioned.

The leftmost helmet is a Wenceslas helm, and rightmost is a Gjermundbu-style helmet:

enter image description here

Also see this website; it mentions viking equipment, and there's no trace of horned helmets.

So where did the image of a horned-helmeted Viking come from?

Apparently, the idea of vikings wearing horned helmets originated from one of the tapestries discovered on the Oseberg ship:

What we do have is one single piece of evidence, the ninth century Oseberg tapestry, suggesting a rare ceremonial use (the relevant figure on the tapestry may even be that of a god, rather than representative of real Vikings)

The Oseberg tapestry: enter image description here

share|improve this answer
So where did the image of a horned-helmeted Viking come from? – billynomates May 17 '11 at 8:53
@billy: The Reality Check podcast episode #131 contains a discussion of the origins of the concept. – David Hedlund May 17 '11 at 9:04
It wouldn't surprise me if some chiefs or other dignitaries had them as ceremonial garb, and maybe even took them into battle. Same as Roman officers (and many others) wearing crests of feathers or hair on their helmets. Makes them recognisable to the troops, which boosts morale. For the common soldier though, mass production would mean choosing a rather plain, easy to make, design with few parts and not needing rarish materials. – jwenting Jul 5 '11 at 6:34
As a sidenote. Horns themselves would be a bad idea in this form of combat as you want blows to glance off your head, not to lock onto the weapons hitting you and pull you off-balance or send greater force into your head, neck, or spine. – user179700 Aug 5 '11 at 2:31
@mihai - Just as FUI - I flagged the question to me migrated to History SE (not offtopic here, but may belong there more). Based on your prior answers, I'd recommend you check out History SE independently of that, but if moderators agree and it gets moved, I'd rather you already have an account there so your rep points don't get lost. – user5341 Nov 23 '11 at 17:43

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.