TITLE: Negau helmet
PERIOD: Middle of 5th Century BC
DIMENSIONS: Height 18 cm
PRICE: 17,500 Euros
PROVENANCE: Private collection, the Axel Guttmann Collection, Berlin (Germany) sold at Christie's on 6 November 2002, lot 37. Acquired from the Royal Athenea Galleries, New York, 2009.
PUBLICATIONS: Christie's, South Kensington, 6 November 2002, lot 37.
CONDITION: In a perfect state of preservation apart from a restoration of 2.5 cm to the central ridge.
Helmet of the “Negau” type, characterised by the morphology showing a tendency to a domed form with a central ridge. Around the base of the crown, seen from the inside, there is a convex, rounded channel that curves out to a vertical rim.
The Nagau nomenclature refers to twenty-six bronze helmets, twenty-three of which are preserved, and which were found in 1811 in a cache in Zenjak, near Negau, the present Negova in Slovenia.
The almost natural colour of the bronze is due to the fact that it was probably found in a river or a swampy area and so did not react to contact with earth as happened with most pieces. As these were made of bronze, this contact resulted in a patina of greens, reds and browns forming.
Helmets like these were typically worn by priests, and would have a religious function. This suggests that they were buried for ceremonial reasons, as an offering to the gods, as many of them were found, not in graves or on the field of battle, but in votive depositions.
They were used by different Etruscan peoples such as the Illyrians, the Veneti, the Celts and other ancient Italic peoples. They are dated from around 400 BC although they were buried after the Roman invasion of the zone, around the year 50 BC.
The rim around the dome of the helmet conserves on one side inscribed signs that can be identified as two letters from an Etruscan alphabet. They would form part of the name of the priest to whom the helmet belonged. Helmets of this type have been found showing names followed by religious ranks. These have turned out to be Celtic names in most cases. Some examples are: “Harigast, the priest”, “Dubnos the sacrificer of pigs”, “Astral priest of the troop”, or “Larsus the divine”.
The village of Zenjak and its hoard were of great interest to archaeologists during the Nazi era, and for this reason it was renamed Harigast, a Germanic personal name, for a short time during the Second World War. The site was never been scientifically excavated.
- BOTTINI, A., VON HASE, F., SCHAUER, P. Antike Helmet: Sammlung Lipperheide und Andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin". Mainz. 1998. (pp. 243 – 244).
- Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, found at Enns-Asten, Austria.