Myths from Persia, £8.99
Diameter: 20.250 cm (base)
Height: 37.500 cm
Weight: 700.000 g
Room 54: Anatolia and Urartu
Urartian, 9th-8th century BC
Probably from north-west Iran
This is a typical soldier's helmet from Urartu, the northern neighbour and rival of the Assyrian empire during the ninth to the seventh centuries BC. The shape was designed to deflect arrows and the holes around the bottom served to attach a leather or felt lining.
From the late ninth century BC onwards Urartian helmets, whether actual examples or those depicted worn by Urartian soldiers on bronze reliefs, were conical, as were those used during the same period by Syrians, Assyrians and Babylonians. In the course of the eighth century there was a tendency towards more curved forms.
Urartian conical helmets varied in their material, decoration and inscriptions. The commonest and cheapest type must have been iron helmets, which were formed from two identical halves riveted together. On Assyrian reliefs, Urartian soldiers' helmets are frequently decorated with horizontal lines and crook shapes over the forehead. This example is bronze, and has crook-shaped snakes ending in bull's heads. They frame the Urartian version of the Egyptian sun-disc. The material and the elaborate decoration may indicate that this helmet was a votive object, left in a temple as an act of piety. The dedication of weapons and armour is well known from ancient Urartu: a bronze shield from the Temple of Haldi at Toprakkale (ancient Rusahinili) is also in the British Museum.
D. Frankel, The ancient kingdom of Urartu (London, The British Museum Press, 1979)
R. Merhav, Urartu: a metalworking centre (Jerusalem, Israel Museum, 1991)