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Iron Age and Roman Jewellery Designs

The Mystery of the Hallaton Helmet

The Mystery

Amongst the other items found with the Hallaton treasure was a Roman parade helmet which was found buried with hundreds of coins and pig bones, probably around the 50s CE.

Hallaton Cheekpiece

At this time the Romans had already conquered the south east of Britain. So what was a Roman helmet doing on an Iron Age British site? It's time to turn detective and try to solve the mystery.


Colour photograph showing a section of leather helmet, some coins and bone
Roman Helmet Cheekpiece

The Clues

Read through the evidence below, then the possible theories about how the helmet came to the site before choosing which idea you think is most likely. Explain your answer. 

  • The ornate Roman helmet would have been a desirable object belonging to someone of very high status.
  • The helmet was discovered on the edge of the palisaded ( made of posts, like a fence) ditch, south of the entrance.
  • The helmet was a parade helmet so might never have been worn in battle. It belonged to a high ranking Roman cavalry officer.
  • The helmet was made of iron and decorated with gilt silver with stylised hair, a lion’s head at the brow and ornate cheekpieces.
  • The one cheekpiece that is best preserved shows a Roman on horseback (probably an emperor) trampling a barbarian while a winged goddess of victory holds a laurel wreath over the Roman’s head. The association with an emperor suggests that the helmet was a gift from a member of the Imperial family although this has not been proved.
  • The front of the helmet is designed to protect the forehead from sword blows that could lead to head injuries.
  • The back of the helmet had a guard that protected the neck from sword blows.
  • The cheek guards deflected all but the most determined blows to the face.
  • Many Roman helmets would have been decorated with plumes to increase their height and appear more intimidating to the enemy.
  • It was not unusual for Roman soldiers to carve their names into their helmets.

 There are a number of ideas about how the helmet came to the site:

  • It may have been stolen from a barracks
  • It may have been a gift from a Roman Emperor wanting to win favour with the people at Hallaton before the invasion?
  • It may be that the helmet belonged to a Briton, probably a noble, who had served in the Roman army.
  • It may have been battle plunder (i.e, captured in a battle)


Discussion ideas

  • If you were to decorate your helmet what would you put on it?
  • What would it have felt like to wear the helmet?
  • What protection do the different parts of the helmet offer?