This Roman Helmet "Just" a Portable Antiquity

The Crosby Garrett Helmet, a Roman bronze cavalry parade helmet
The Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet

This stunning bronze helmet was unearthed in Crosby Garrett in Cumbria in the North of England, not too far from the Lake District.  It was discovered in 33 fragments, face down in the mud on a Roman road.

The helmet belongs to the finder and the landowner, as this helmet does not qualify under the Treasure Act.  It has been pieced together apparently by Christie’s auction house which will sell the piece at an auction in October.  It might fetch as much as 300,000 GBP.  Though the piece does not qualify as treasure, it likely would be of “Waverley” quality and thus any export would be delayed to allow domestic organizations an opportunity to match any purchase price.  I’ve pointed out some of the benefits of the Portable Antiquities Scheme–the voluntary program which encourages the reporting of objects like this which fall below the treasure threshold. But this case presents a troubling result in many ways, as this object was cleaned for sale by Christie’s.  We do not know anything about the deposits left on the helmet, or how the helmet was abandoned in pieces along an old Roman road.  Roger Bland also points out the unpalatable consequences of this find:  “It is a pity that the object was restored before there was any opportunity to examine it scientifically, as that would have given us more information about how it came to be in the ground . . .  We hope it will be possible for there to be an archaeological examination of the find spot.”

  1. Maev Kennedy, “Roman cavalry helmet found with metal detector may go abroad at auction,” September 13, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/sep/13/roman-helmet-metal-detector-cumbria.
  2. Roger Bland, “Exceptional Roman cavalry helmet discovered in Cumbria – News section,” n.d., http://www.finds.org.uk/news/stories/article/id/195.

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Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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