Category Archives: Metal Detecting Finds

Auction Day Arrives – Christie’s Sale 5488, Lot 176: The Crosby Garrett Helmet

The Crosby Garrett Helmet at the Christie’s web site:
“Lot Description
A ROMAN BRONZE CAVALRY PARADE HELMET CIRCA LATE 1ST-2ND CENTURY A.D.
Composed of two sections, helmet and mask; the tinned bronze face-mask with idealised youthful features, the openwork eyes with irises formed of delicate perforated rings, the upper and lower lids with incised lashes, the eyebrows arching from the bridge of the nose to the hairline with incised herringbone detail, the nostrils pierced, the fleshy lips slightly parted, with filtrum indicated, the face framed by three rows of tight corkscrew curls, the individual strands finely incised, the lower edge with remains of iron rivets on either side, probably for attachment of a strap for fastening to the helmet; the bronze helmet in the form of a Phrygian-style cap, with curved tip, surmounted by a solid-cast griffin, on an integral base, seated on its haunches, with finely incised details of the fur and mane, an attachment loop on the back of the neck, his wings outstretched with incised feather detail, his right paw raised and resting on the rim of a fluted amphora, an oval recess below with pierced loop at the tip, the back edge of the cap delineated by a raised ridge, curling inwards at the corners, terminating in incised button finals and decorated with pairs of vertical lines bordered by tongues, a row of hair curls emerging from underneath, the back and sides of the cap decorated with five rosettes, with groups of punched dots at the tips of the petals, with narrow flaring neck-guard, pierced in the centre and left corner, the perimeter decorated with incised diagonal dashes and tongues, with original hinge for attachment to the face-mask, mounted 16 in. (40.7 cm.) high

Lot Notes

This remarkable cavalry parade helmet, with its enigmatic features, is one of only three that have been discovered in Britain complete with face-masks. The others being the Ribchester Helmet, found in 1796 and now in the British Museum, and the Newstead Helmet, in the Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, found circa 1905. The Crosby Garrett Helmet, found in Cumbria earlier this year is an extraordinary example of Roman metalwork at its zenith.

The Crosby Garrett Helmet sets itself apart by virtue of its beauty, workmanship and completeness, particularly the face-mask, which was found virtually intact. In addition, the remarkable Phrygian-style peak surmounted by its elaborate bronze griffin crest appears unprecedented. H. Russell Robinson, formerly the curator of the Royal Armouries, cites only one other fragmentary helmet found at Ostrov in Romania, dated to the second half of the 2nd Century A.D., in the form of a tall Phrygian cap. Representations of similar helmets can be found at the base of Trajan’s Column among the captured Dacian and Sarmatian armour (cf ., H.R. Robinson, The Armour of Imperial Rome, London 1975, pp. 134-135, pls. 409-410). The openwork eyes and facial features of the Crosby Garrett Helmet find their closest parallels with Robinson’s Cavalry Sports Type E helmets, and in particular with a helmet from Nola, in southern Italy, now in the British Museum, dated to the late 1st to early 2nd Century A.D., (ibid., p. 124, pl. 361). However, the rendering of the hair in large tight curls is comparable to that of the Belgrade mask, now in the Archaeological Museum in Belgrade, belonging to Cavalry Sports Type C, and dated to the 2nd Century A.D. (ibid. p. 115, pl. 326).

These helmets were not for combative use, but worn for hippika gymnasia, (cavalry sports events). The polished white-metal surface of the Crosby Garrett face-mask would have provided a striking contrast to the original golden-bronze colour of the hair and Phrygian cap. In addition, colourful streamers may have been attached to the rings along the back ridge and on the griffin crest. Arrian of Nicomedia, a Roman provincial governor under Hadrian, provides us with the only surviving contemporary source of information on cavalry sports events. He describes, in an appendix to his Ars Tactica, how the cavalrymen were divided into two teams which took turns to attack and defend. He suggests that the wearing of these helmets was a mark of rank or excellence in horsemanship. Participants would also carry a light, elaborately painted shield, and wear an embroidered tunic and possibly thigh-guards and greaves, all of which would contribute to the impressive spectacle. These events may well have accompanied religious festivals celebrated by the Roman army and were probably also put on for the benefit of visiting officials. The displays would have been intended to demonstrate the outstanding equestrian skill and marksmanship of the Roman soldier and the wealth of the great empire he represented.”

Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Appeal – 24 Hours to Go!

Yep, I’m starting to sound like a broken record right? Donate online to the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Appeal or get in touch with Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery here.

The totals on the JustGiving web site stand at £8,051.22 donated online, plus £2,045.22 Gift Aid plus supplement. So we are about £410 up on yesterday. Right now, unless Tullie House Museum have received some big offline donations, things don’t look so good.

Crunch Time for the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Appeal – Just 48 Hours to Go!

Ok folks, it’s crunch time for the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Appeal. In less than 48 hours, the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet will go under the auctioneers hammer at Christie’s in London. You can Donate online to the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Appeal or you can get in touch with Tullie House Museum directly right here.

The total on the Just Giving web site now stands at £7,641.22 plus £1,954.96 Gift Aid plus supplement, lets see if we can get that total up even higher in the next 48 hours. So go and Donate online to the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Appeal right now!

I don’t know how much Tullie House Museum has raised in offline donations, I couldn’t find any mention on their website.

Book on the Frome Hoard to be Released on October 11

The British Museum is releasing a book on the Frome Hoard!

Found in April 2010 by metal detectorist Dave Crisp, the Frome Hoard consisted of a very large roman pot filled to the brim with 52,503 Roman coins. The coins in the pot weighed around 160 kilograms (that’s 352.7lbs in old money), one of the largest coin hoards ever discovered! The coins are mostly third century radiates, some of them in a remarkable state of preservation. The book, titled simply ‘The Frome Hoard’, will be released on the 11th October 2010.

Denarius from the Frome HoardAbove: A Denarius of Carausius from the Frome Hoard. Photo courtesy of the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Flickr photostream.

Another interesting point to note is that the British Museum still needs around £30,000 for conservation work on the coins, and 50p from every sale of the Frome Hoard book goes towards the cost of conserving the coins and the acquisition campaign apparently being run by Somerset County Heritage Service so that the hoard can stay in Somerset and be displayed in Taunton Museum.

I’ll provide some more information on the book and probably a review when I receive my copy.

The Frome Hoard by Sam Moorhead, Anna Booth and Roger Bland on Amazon.co.uk

Lecture on the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet at Kendal Museum

The Westmorland Gazzette reports that there will be a lecture on the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet held at Kendal Museum on October 1st at 19:30. To book a seat call the Kendal Museum on 01539 815597 or email info@kendal.ac.uk.

You can donate online to the Crosby Garrett Helmet Appeal here: http://www.justgiving.com/Tullie-House-Crosby-Garrett-Roman-Helmet-Appeal

Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Latest News

The BBC is reporting that an anonymous donor has not only pledged £50,000 to the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Appeal, but has promised to match every contribution to Tullie House Museum’s appeal fund pound for pound. No reports, as yet, on whether the appeal will receive money from those high-profile arts and archaeology funds mentioned in an earlier blog.

More on the donation from the Granuid.

The Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet now has an Wikipedia article.

You can donate online to the Crosby Garrett Helmet Appeal here: http://www.justgiving.com/Tullie-House-Crosby-Garrett-Roman-Helmet-Appeal

Reviews of Metal Detecting Related Books

Over the coming weeks I am going to start reviewing metal detecting and metal detecting related books. I’m not going to stick to newly released titles, I’m planning to write up some very old treasure hunting classics and other books that have been around a few years. The first books I’ll be reviewing are listed here:

  • The Vale of York Hoard by Gareth Williams and Barry Ager
  • Early Anglo-Saxon Coins by Gareth Williams
  • Treasure Hoards of East Anglia by Mark Mitchels
  • Romano-British Coin Hoards by Richard Abdy
  • Beginners Guide to Metal Detecting by Julian Evan-Hart and David Stuckey
  • The New Gold Panning is Easy by Roy Lagal
  • Various “golden oldies” by Ted Fletcher and others

I’m looking for reader suggestions for the new book reviews section. Which books do you want to see reviewed? Got strong opinions about a particular book? Whose books do you really like or whose books do you really hate? Leave some comments and let me know!

When the reviews are added to the main site, you can find the Metal Detecting Book Reviews here.

The Westmorland Gazette Reports on Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet Appeal

The Westmorland Gazette has posted a story on the fundraising effort to keep the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet in Cumbria. The Westmorland Gazette reports that, so far, the public have donated £25,000 towards the appeal fund and that staff at the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery expect a large boost to the campaign fund “from high-profile arts and archaeology funds later this week.”

In the wake of the massive public interest in major metal detecting finds like the Staffordshire Hoard and the Frome Hoard, I had expected a greater level of interest in the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet from the general public. The £25,000 raised so far was a big surprised to me, I had hoped for a whole lot more after all the publicity and news coverage the helmet received.

No doubt the massive cuts to public spending and the threat of mass job losses have had an impact on peoples willingness to donate to any cause, but even in the current financial climate, I had hoped we could do better.

So it seems, for now at least, that the fate of the Crosby Garrett Helmet lays with those “high-profile arts and archaeology funds”. I hope that those who decide how the money in those funds gets spent will support Tullie House and provide them with the money they need to acquire the Crosby Garrett Helmet, not just for the people of Cumbria, but for everyone in the whole of Britain.

Interesting German Metal Detecting Site

I haven’t seen many English language sites from detectorists in Germany, but i found this one recently. He has certainly made some interesting finds, including a sub-machine gun from world war two!

It is a real shame that there aren’t more english language german metal detecting sites (or a great shame that I didn’t pay more attention in German class at school), as Germany has a very interesting history.

It would be amazing to find something that had belonged to a member of the Germanic Tribes who defeated the Varus Legions at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, probably the most shocking defeat of a roman army in the entire history of the empire, or even a coin or piece of armor that had belonged to a fleeing roman soldier.

The site of the battle Teutoburg forest was actually rediscovered by a British metal detectorist, Major Tony Clunn, who was serving with the British Army in Germany.

Photographing metal detecting finds with a cheap digital microscope, Part II

A couple more shots with the cheap, perhaps too cheap, digital microscope. Roman coin of Gallienus:Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus - 218 – 268Roman coins picturing mythical creatures are among my favourite finds, so I’m glad this one came out pretty well!Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus - 218 – 268Not bad!

Now for a hammered silver:

Hammered Silver photographed with a cheap digital microscopeHammered Silver photographed with a cheap digital microscopeNot bad going! I was searching around on the web last night and found that Lindner (the coin and stamp storage box people) make a digital microscope that is similar in design to the one I am using but looks a lot better made, not to mention being a lot more expensive. Might be worth trying out some time!

Update: I’ve just heard from The Searcher Magazine that they reviewed the Lindner digital microscope in the August 2008 issue, on page 20.