The production and deposition of the Thames coolus helmet

Jaime Kaminski, David Sim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1934 a 1st-century ad copper-alloy infantry helmet was dredged from the River Thames or its Walbrook tributary. The helmet soon found its way into the possession of Father John Ward, an antiquarian, who exhibited it at his museum at the Abbey Folk Park, New Barnet. Here the helmet remained on display until 1940 when the London Blitz forced the museum's closure. After his death in July 1949 much of Ward's collection of antiquities was sold. The helmet was pur-chased by Gerald Gardner from Ward's widow; he then sold it on to the British Museum in 1950, where it has been displayed ever since.The helmet has been examined in detail for remnant tool marks and other evidence of how it was produced. This has allowed a tentative hypothesis to be forwarded regarding the production process. The helmet bowl was raised rather than spun. The dimensional conformity shown on some parts of the helmet reveals that the maker of the bowl was an artisan of some skill. However, the helmet furniture was attached in a haphazard manner with few items aligned correctly. It is possible that the various components of the helmet were manufactured by skilled craftsmen but their attachment was left to semi-skilled labour. The helmet was utilitarian and was produced quickly. Sufficient resources were devoted to the task to make the helmet functional but it was not a finely executed and finished piece.The helmet saw long service, as indicated by four different punctim ownership marks on the neck-guard, and at the end of its period of use it finally ended up in the Walbrook or Thames, where it may have been ritually deposited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-87
Number of pages19
JournalTransactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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