Viking horns: Did horn historically appear in the Viking age?

By far, we have had many stereotypes about the Vikings. Many assume that the Vikings lived by raiding and plundering other lands. The others believe that the Vikings were the bloodthirsty warriors who wore horned helmets and drank ale from the drinking horns. It sounds awesome, doesn’t it? But whether this is historical or not is the other side of the story. This blog post will focus the occasions that the Viking horns did/didn’t appear in Viking age.

Viking horned helmet: Historical or not?

Image of Viking helmet Viking historical helmet
Viking helmet was in the simple bowl shape

We have encountered a lot of the depictions of the Vikings wearing the horned helmets. But there has been no official materials that clearly depict that the Viking warriors wore the horned helmets to join the battle. But how come we get the common knowledge of the horned helmets?

Depiction of Viking horned helmet in the Viking music drama

The appearance of horned helmets appeared in the 19th century. In 1876, the actors in the German-language music drama of Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) wore the horned helmets. Though this play was credited for being creative and inspiring, it somehow made the next generation get the wrong image of the historical Viking warriors who would not wear the horned helmets to join the battle.

Imagine that the Vikings wore the horned helmets to join the battle, it is somewhat hilarious. Because little chance was that the Viking would gore out the eyes of the enemies with the Viking horns. And high chance was that the Viking warriors with horned helmets would be stuck in the bush.

Viking Horns Did Appear in Viking Artifacts from Oseberg Excavation

In the excavation of Oseberg burial site in 1904, the archaeologists found out a Viking ancient tapestry that depicted the Viking tradition ritual. But what was the most striking was the detail of the leading man in the ritual wore the horned helmet. The man was a little bigger than the other participants of the ritual. He wore the horned helmet and were ahead of their participants.

Image of Oseberg tapestry Viking age Viking artifact Viking horns
The leading man on the top left was wearing the horned helmet and holding the sword upside down

This tapestry remains a mystery and we still don’t know what the meaning of the horned helmet that the “big figure” wore.

Viking drinking horn in Viking age

There have been a few well-preserved Viking drinking horns for the last decades. Fortunately, we have many texts and stone depictions of the Viking drinking horns. In Norse mythology, Odin once used the drinking horns to drink the magical Mead of Poetry and Thor also drank half of the ocean water in a drinking horn.

Image of Viking drinking horn on the Viking picture stone
Viking picture stone features the men holding the drinking horns seemingly in a feast

There have been a lot of excavations of picture stones with the people holding drinking horns. But whether the Viking drinking horns were a common items remains a mystery. As many people believed that the Vikings only carved onto the stones the luxurious scene of the noble and wealthy to show off their social rank and material possessions.

The Misunderstood statue with horns

A metal detector happened to discover a wooden statue of Odin with a strange helmet in one popular Viking archaeological site. The statue features one-eyed man wearing the helmets of two horns. This 1,300-year-old statue raises a question about the existence of Viking horned helmets.

Odin small statue with the controversial helmet

But after thoroughly researching, archaeologists and scholars came to a conclusion that the statue didn’t depict the horned helmet. In fact, it was the helmet with the ravens perching on but it was broken. So what we have now is a helmet with the broken ravens, not horns.

The horned with ravens on top found in a Viking depiction. The man was followed by the berserker warrior who worshipped Odin the Allfather

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *