This bronze helmet is designed for combat rather than purely ceremonial purposes, with blade-like wings which slide forward under the jawline from a straight-edge forehead margin. The top of the helmet is fortified with two prominent structural ‘ribs’ designed to deflect sword blows, while the rear edge of the helmet – above the shoulders – is lipped outwards to provide a neck guard. There are faint marks indicating that the helmet was indeed struck, probably by a sword, on the left side.
The early date of this piece put it in the Illyrian (i.e. Macedonian and Albanian) kingdom of the Enchelei, an 8th and 7th century B.C.E. polity focused around Lake Ohrid in what is now Albania and Macedonia. Their economy appears to have been based mainly on fishing, and they had extensive trade networks with Greece. They also had an uneasy relationship with local tribes including Macedonians and the Dardani, among others, and the fact that they seem to have spent much of their time at war may explain why so much of their art and material culture is based around warrior-like iconography and accessories. A helmet such as this would have been worn by a lightly-armed foot-soldier (or Hoplite, in Greek terms), and was designed for skirmishing. This is an evocative and impressive piece of ancient art.