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Fit for a king! Staffordshire Hoard helmet recreated - PICTURES and VIDEO

An ancient helmet has been painstakingly recreated nearly a decade on from the discovery of the world’s largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver in a Staffordshire field.

A reconstruction of a helmet found in the Staffordshire Hoard at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
A reconstruction of a helmet found in the Staffordshire Hoard at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Around a third of the fragments found in the famous Staffordshire Hoard come from the high-status helmet and experts have spent the last 18 months reconstructing two versions of it which are now on display.

Thousands of rare fragments believed to be more than 1,300 years old were studied in a bid to build a picture of the original helmet.

Visitors can see both helmets in all their glory at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery from today.

How the find gave clues into Anglo-Saxon life

It was almost a decade ago when one man and his metal detector uncovered the world's largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork.

Terry Herbert, from Burntwood, struck gold on farmer Fred Johnson's land, near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, when he unearthed the £3.2 million ancient gold and silver haul in the summer of 2009.

The internationally renowned Staffordshire Hoard, owned by Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent City Councils, was acquired with donations from members of the public following a huge campaign led by the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art.

Now, almost ten years on, experts have painstakingly studied and recreated part of it – having spent 18 months piecing together a rare helmet using state of the art technology and ancient craft techniques.

WATCH: Take a closer look here

Extensive research helped the team identify fragments which belonged to the helmet, believed to have been made around AD 600-650.

Helmets of this period are thought of as incredibly rare, with just five other Anglo-Saxon helmets known, and the detail and bold crested design of the helmet is likely to have had an important owner.

Two reconstructions of the high-status helmet, which is believed to have been made up of a third of the more than 1,300-year-old fragments from the hoard, are now on display.

Conservator Pieta Greaves trims the crest of a reconstruction of a helmet

Both of the carefully crafted remodels will now become permanent fixtures at the museums.

The show comes after a team of specialist makers from The School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University discovered significant parts of the original helmet, including the steel base which provided the shape, are missing and that the surviving parts were too damaged and incomplete to be re-joined.

The team led on the fabrication of the precious metal elements of the helmet, laser scanning of the original objects to ensure the replica pieces were as close to the surviving original parts as possible.

Other specialists, including Royal Oak Armoury, Gallybagger Leather, Drakon Heritage and Conservation and metalsmith Samantha Chilton, worked collaboratively to bring the helmet to life and were advised by archaeologists.

Intricate detail is revealed

Steel, leather and horsehair elements were created, as well as the wood and paste, that scientific analysis of the original has revealed were used in its construction.

Though it will never be possible to reassemble the original physically, the project explored how the helmet may have been made and what it looked like, enabling archaeologists to understand its construction better and test theories about its structure and assembly.

Helmets of this period are rare

Duncan Wilson, chief executive at Historic England, who helped fund the project, said: “Displaying the reconstructed helmet will capture the public’s imagination and link us to an age when armour creates an overwhelming impression of warrior splendour.

"I am delighted that the research we have funded is helping to reveal the secrets of this unique archaeological treasure.”

While fragmented, damaged and distorted, the hoard’s remarkable near 4,000 objects represent the possessions of an elite warrior class, stunning in their craftsmanship and ornament.

Why the hoard was buried, perhaps before c.675 AD, is still not certain but it was uncovered close to a major routeway, Roman Watling Street, in what was the emerging Kingdom of Mercia.

Staff admire the replica helmet that would have had a very high status owner and possibly even have been worn by a king

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, also praised the reconstructions and said the project would draw crowds back to Birmingham again.

He said: “Thanks to the specialists at BCU’s School of Jewellery, Gallybagger Leather, Drakon Heritage and Conservation, and metalsmith Samantha Chilton, for the work they have done to recreate part of the region’s forgotten history.

“The Staffordshire Hoard put Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on the map globally when these treasures were first displayed in 2009, capturing the world’s imagination.

"The latest secrets revealed by the Staffordshire Hoard will draw visitors to Birmingham again, nearly a decade after this fantastic discovery."

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