UK unveils rare Roman helmet mistaken for bucket

Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:43am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A rare Roman cavalry helmet dating from Emperor Claudius' invasion of Britain nearly 2,000 years ago was unveiled on Tuesday after painstaking restoration lasting nearly a decade.

The so-called Hallaton Helmet was found 10 years ago during the excavation of an Iron Age shrine at Hallaton in Leicestershire, central England.

At the time, archaeologists used to finding more instantly recognizable gold and silver coins joked that they had unearthed a fairly modern "rusty bucket."

In fact what they had found was a treasure of considerable importance which experts said pointed to the close relationship between Roman invaders and some native Britons.

"The helmet doesn't seem to be damaged, so it could have been taken in battle but I think that's not terribly likely," Peter Liddle, community archaeologist for Leicestershire County Council, told Reuters.

"I think two things are the most likely -- this belonged to a Briton who has fought in the Roman Army and got back home in one piece or it was a diplomatic gift from the Romans to a local ruler to cement an alliance."

Both possibilities challenge the commonly held view that it was Romans versus Britons in and around 43 AD when Emperor Claudius' conquest began.

The site where the helmet was found is believed to be a major religious centre which has produced one of the largest number of Iron Age coins ever discovered in Britain.   Continued...

<p>A helmet lies in sand in the Roman amphitheatre after a performance by Hungarian Collegium Gladiatorium fighting club in Croatia's northern Adriatic port of Pula May 23, 2009, during the traditional Antiquity festival at the start of the summer tourist season. REUTERS/Nikola Solic</p>