Roman Cavalry Mask Found


A citizen in the island province of Gotland has submitted a Roman cavalry-officer’s helmet mask to the County Archaeologist. It is said to have been in the family for some time. The state of the piece shows that it can’t be from a ploughed field, which makes it unlikely to be a recent metal-detector find.

Thanks to Jan Peder Lamm for the tip-off.


11 thoughts on “Roman Cavalry Mask Found

  1. Götland? Must have been a Roman cavalry officer with a piss-poor sense of direction. /jk

    A marvelous find, but what intrigues me is the eye. A cavalry parade mask naturally requires open eye-holes and this one has at least one eye closed up – judging by the photo, possibly retroactively. Perhaps it was worn by a one-eyed soldier, or it was converted for a secondary use – as a funeral mask or idol, perhaps?


  2. Were those masks used in battle to begin with or just for show in parades? It doesn’t look very comfortable, how much does it weigh really?

    @Phillip IV: To confuse the enemy, it’s ”Gotland” without umlaut, even though that’s part of Götaland, with the umlaut.


  3. Kai, we know that cavalry used face masks in mock combat (throwing javelin shafts at each other) and parades. I don’t know of any evidence whether they were used in combat. There is not a lot of evidence for armour that was “just for show” in the ancient world … even the most ornate stuff was probably functional. If you want a better source than a random person on the internet, Bishop and Coulston’s “Roman Military Equipment” would be a good next stop.


  4. @Phillip IV: To confuse the enemy, it’s ”Gotland” without umlaut, even though that’s part of Götaland, with the umlaut.

    Thanks. It successfully confused me, although I wouldn’t consider me an enemy in the strict sense.

    As for the use of the masks, SM @ #3 is right: the use for parades and displays is historically attested, but there is no direct evidence for the use in combat. It remains an open question, but the pro-combat-use factions seems to be gaining ground off lately.

    For what it is worth, German historian and experimental archeologist Markus Junkelmann reconstructed a complete set of Roman cavalry armor for the archeological park in Carnutum (Austria), which included a mask helmet – my memory is a bit foggy, but if I recall correctly, they found visibility to be less restricted than was expected (visibility issues being one of the main reasons for arguing against a combat use).


  5. It looks like similar masks served as inspiration for the masks worn by “the ten thousand immortals” in a rather disappointing animated film featuring half-naked, bearded Greek dudes.
    The Japanese samurai likewise had “humanoid” metal masks, a curiously non-functional design detail.

    They should re-name Gotland with umlaut, for the coolness factor for any local rock bands. “And here comes “Metal Skullcrüsher”, from Götland, Götaland”.
    — — — — —

    Completely OT: Do you have any office closer than the University of Chester? maybe at the offices of “Fornvännen”? I have tons of horror/urban gothic books I try to give a new home. The librarians in the local libraries think balrogs, vampires and Elder Gods only belong if they are safely encapsuled inside ordinary fantasy. Lovecraft is accepted, but not new stuff. Go figure. If you or your friends like reading about soul-eating horrors, I could ship a box or two.


  6. Addendum. It should, of course be “Götland, Götaland, Swëdën”. No more heavy metal silliness from me, I promise!
    — — — — — — — — —
    “Ancient cities sprung from marshes, researcher finds”
    There are some famous iron-age marsh/lake settlements in Northern Europe, but I assume defense was the main concern. No shortage of water for agriculture!


  7. Birger, that is so kind of you! I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to read several boxes of horror & urban gothic. But you’re very welcome to write guest entries on the subject. And we could run a lottery for the books here on Aard if you like.

    Or if you just want to off-load the books, you could put them up on eBay cheaply.


  8. Birger, have you considered donating those books to a prison or a literacy project?

    I’d generously offer to take them off your hands (I’m just that kind of guy) if [a] I weren’t on the wrong side of the Atlantic and [b] my wife hadn’t told me that no new books come into the house until some go out…


  9. @Birger about te books… – if you would consider mailing some books to the US, here is a great place for them… . Brenda Novak is an award winning author, whose youngest son has diabetes. Every year, Brenda and her staff run an online auction to raise money for diabetes research. If you could send some books to them, they can handle shipping them to winners. Also, each item ha a bio of the donor attached – so you could give Aardvarcheaology a mention!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s