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The Ribchester Helmet

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1814,0705.1

  • Title (object)

    • The Ribchester Helmet
  • Description

    Copper alloy cavalry helmet with face-mask visor. Decorated with a scene of a skirmish between infantry and cavalry. Fittings for a crest-box and a pair of trailing streamers survive on the head-piece.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1stC(late)-2ndC(early)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 276 millimetres
    • Weight: 1305.6 grammes
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        annotation
      • Inscription Language

        Latin
      • Inscription Content

        (a) CARAVI
        (b) CARAV (followed by two setting out dots for the top and bottom of an I)
      • Inscription Comment

        Graffiti in punched dots.
        (a) On the underside of the neck-guard.
        (b) On the underside of the flange below the left ear of the visor.
  • Curator's comments

    Cavalry sports helmet

    Roman Britain, late 1st or early 2nd century AD
    From Ribchester, Lancashire

    Helmet worn by élite trooper in the colourful cavalry sports events

    In 1796 a clogmaker's son, playing behind his father's house in Ribchester, Lancashire, discovered a mass of corroded metalwork. This proved to be a hoard of Roman military equipment, mainly cavalry sports equipment and military awards.

    Cavalry sports (hippika gymnasia) were flamboyant displays of military horsemanship and weapons drill. They served both as training sessions and to entertain the troopers. The most colourful events were mock battles among the élite riders of the unit, often in the guise of Greeks and Amazons. Both men and horses wore elaborate suites of equipment on these occasions. The helmet, decorated with a scene of a skirmish between infantry and cavalry, is the most spectacular piece. When used, the head-piece and face mask of embossed bronze would be held together by a leather strap. A crest-box and a pair of trailing streamers or 'manes' would have been attached to the head-piece.

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Opper 2008 63 bibliographic details
    • R I B II.3, 2425.6, pp. 46 bibliographic details
    • Jackson & Craddock 1995 pp.78-81, fig.48 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2014 7 July - 31 Oct, Ribchester Roman Museum, Spotlight: The Ribchester Helmet
    2008 24 Jul-26 Aug, London, BM, Hadrian: Empire and Conflict
    2007 15 Sep-2 Dec, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, 1707-2007
    2002 16 Sep-1 Dec, Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, Changing Faces

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    30 July 1985

    Reason for treatment

    Permanent Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Examine possibleactive corrosion spots, stabilise if necessary and consolidate flaking surface.

    Condition

    Coated with Ercalene (cellulose nitrate) lacquer after moulding in Silicone Rubber RTV for replicating. Repaired above left and right eye socket of mask. Iron corrosion on crown piece behind left ear and on top flange above right eye. Dark green surface of crown had flaked in many places and had exposed dark green patches and recent(1985) flaking had exposed light green patches beneath. Mount; Crown pieces and mask held together with detachable expanding metal support padded with polyester.

    Treatment details

    (1980?); Lacquered with Ercalene (cellulose nitrate) Moulded in silicone rubber, Silastic 9161 RTV with catalyst N9162. P Shorer (25/4/85). Electroform replicas made CRM.331(PRN; BCB58351) and CRM.332 (PRN; BCB58352).

    Surface flaking examined and XRD samples taken (surface flakes easily removed denoting poor adhesion tothe metal beneath). XRF analysis by P Craddock XRF results; Body metal is Brass. Flaking surface = Cu, Zn, Sn, traces of Pb and much of Iron. 29/7/85; Old Ercalene (cellulose nitrate) removed with acetone on cotton wool swabs; turned green from the over painting. 30/7/85; CROWN PIECE: Some holes on the crown piece were reinforced using Plastic Padding Super Epoxy adhesive and glass fibre mat. The remainder consolidated using 50% Incralac (methyl methacylate copolymer, Paraloid B44 - methyl methacrylate, toluene, ethanol, butyl acetate, benzotriazole) in acetone applied using brush. It was put into vacuum in acetone vapours to mat the lacquer.

    About these records 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1814

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1814,0705.1


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Object reference number: BCB60036

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