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Vikings Horns

Vikings had horns in their helmets

Vikings did not have horns in their helmets

Vikings Horns

Where did the image of the Vikings rampaging across the land with horns in their helmets come from?

If you thought it was back in the Viking age, when they actually carried out their various raids, invasions and pillages, and not the 1800s, you are mistaken.

The image of horns on their helmets was never really seen before Sweden’s Gustav Malmström popularised them when painting them on their raids back in the 19th century, and they really only became cemented in our consciousness in the 1870's for Wagners “Der Ring des Nibelungen”.

In fact, no helmet from the period with horns has ever been found, whereas many without them have.

Where did the image come from?

It turns out there have been many horned helmets uncovered by archaeologists but they all predated the Vikings. They were incorrectly classified, and in any case were thought to be worn for ceremonies and not in regular warfare.

The vast majority of evidence of horned headgear shows it was largely used for ceremonial purposes, or depicted only in artwork. Here's The Horned God from Enkomi in the Cyprus Museum, dated from 1200-1150 BC:

Enkomi 450x687

It turns out only the non-Scandanavian countries actually belived this myth all along. The countries where the actual Vikings came from never fell for it!

Even though it's false, the idea persists to this day adding color to some places where artistic licence has been used for styling effects. The Minnesota Vikings American football team has Viking horns on their logos, we see them in the cartoon Hagar the Horrible and pretty much any time some outlandish "wildman" image is needed, for example with heavy metal and rock bands on stage. Oh, and Elmer Fudd when he chases Bugs Bunny.