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Old 9th May 2005, 06:26 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Sindhi helmet with face guard

Michel,
Last week the thread of fantastic photos headed 'oriental beauties' included a beautiful helmet with face mask with parenthesis and question mark 'Sind'?

In Haider, "Arms & Armour of Muslim India" p.103 this exact helmet is illustrated and credited it National Museum, Krakow. It is identified as noted as Sindhi , late 18th c. Apparantly this type helmet is typical in Sind, with the full metal mask of of course higher quality, and usually a triangular mail flap covering the face.
In "Saladin and the Saracens" by D. Nicolle p.8, I noticed a similar concept helmet in a line drawing with conical shape and a detachable metal face plate, shown as Qipchaq c.12-13th c. (State Historical Museum, Moscow).
It seems that these face covers have earlier associations in 6th century Byzantine examples. I'm sure there are others in other periods and spheres as well, but thought I would share these findings for now.

I wanted to put this on a new thread just for focus.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 9th May 2005, 06:35 AM   #2
Radu Transylvanicus
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And the Normans and the Vikings as well had somehow similar helmets ... but yes it is a good chance that the pre Byzantine Greek archaic helmets are the source (remember those Corinthian and "hoplite" helmets?) ... Not necesarilly with detachable masks but it if I dig some bibliography maybe I will find that too ...
Remember that "boomerang" theory comming from ancient Greece to Hindoostan ( kopis - sossun pata - khukri - yathagan ) ...
Back in Romania in the Orthodox (Eastearn) iconography there are many examples of a half sphere sometimes conical helmets with nasal (metal strip) protection and chainmail but they are definatelly not singular examples , however not detachable masks that I can remember ....
However you fueled me a great ideea about posting a helmet from ancient Romania ( Dacia ) I had the privilege of examining close , a national treasure belonging to local Thracs but I will open a separate thread on that so we stay focus on your thematic but yes, the Forum does need more talk about helmets and head protection .. Good catch, Jim !
Could this type of ancient Greek helmet be the part of the evolutionary course to the "Helmet of Sind" ?
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Old 9th May 2005, 03:56 PM   #3
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Excellent Radu!!!
Thank you for the follow up as I really wanted to pursue the ancestry of these faceguarded helmets, and the examples you have cited are right on target. Yes, I think it would be very likely that early Greek influence would be a good source as the presence of Alexander in these regions left so many profound influences in many aspects of the culture.
Nicely done, and very much appreciated!!
All the best,
Jim
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Old 9th May 2005, 05:39 PM   #4
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The Latin cavalry in the early centuries CE used a helmet with a detachable or hinged face-shaped face mask. Such a helmet is seen in the movie "Gladiator" in an arena combat situation, though I don't know the specific authenticity of the mechanism, etc. (one of my brothers has made quite a study of it though....)
Then there's the Japanese menpo (mempo?); masks that I think originally laced to the head, under the helmet, and only later to the helmet itself?
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Old 9th May 2005, 05:56 PM   #5
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Hi Tom, Thanks for bringing those up. I thought "Gladiator" was a pretty fantastic movie, and I felt like I was prompted to learn a lot by it as I had never really focused much on classical period history. Sure would like to hear more on your brothers findings on these.
All the best,
Jim
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Old 9th May 2005, 06:01 PM   #6
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I do really miss being able to email forum threads to people......I'm not missing something, am I? The new forum can't do that, right? My most recommended feature for a website if you want word of mouth type spread; emailability of pages, though naked ladies seem to work out for a lot of them..... I've got to try to catch up with my brother on a few of these questions......after all I do have flat-rate long-distance.......
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Old 14th May 2005, 08:24 AM   #7
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I’m sorry Jim for my absence last time. It seems to me that lately some interesting threads have stucked and I have a feeling of some kind of crisis lately here on Forum.

With all respect, without acting as an expert which I am not, I can hardly agree with theory of some influences or similarity of ancient Greek helmets and those from Sind. It is more like a feeling, than a research conclusion, but: looking at the construction of this helmet we have to know that it was constructed that way for maximum protecting for the face, with simultaneous giving for a warrior a little comfort in hard and hot climate. That’s why these helmets were still improved and were changing. I can agree of course that ancient Greek, Alexander the Great, etc. could have inspire all world including Asia, but this helmet, in my opinion, is not a good example. Construction is much different. It is nearer to the much later Turkish helmets and Polish zischagge with its nasal and “half-open” view for a face. If we will think that way we should find that medieval helmets covering all face are much more similar to those from India with masks. First of all we have to find an answer for the basic question. What for is face-like mask, or with some similarity to the face. First of all, mask is for protection. Just like visors in European helmets. But this could be anything without marked eyes, mouths and attached nose which are sometimes more decorated and grotesque then useful during the fight. These ones were made to express something. First of all, to create psychological effect, like fear. I don’t know nothing about Japanese helmets, but isn’t it that’s why they are using all these masks with terrible grimaces? Second option is to create some kind of aura around warrior with mask. Take a look at 15th century Persian or Tartars masks. Many of them are made of gold and are beautifully carved, with realistic face expression. They’re called “war masks” so if they were in use not for parade but for a battle, then only for psychological effects, because good protection they are not.
It seems to me, but I might be wrong, that masks from Sind seem to be some kind of outcome of the different influences. They are both: decorated, face-pretending, grotesque or beautifully made and at the same time quite useful, relatively safe and with all discomfort typical for every face covering… quite comfortable.
I’m not prepared to give any conclusion. Maybe someone who has made some researches around masks should give it to us, anyway this is quite interesting and complex problem. In general: masks are visible on Greek cavalry armours, and then on Romano-Syrian helmets, as Robinson wrote (Oriental Armour, 1967, p.73) with similarity to those used by gladiators. Persian king Khusru II was using the helmet with mailing covering all over the face. Elements of such mail protection and elements of face-like masks seem to be both visible in Sind helmets. Then we can see beautiful face-like masks on Tartar’s and Persian helmets (15th cent.). But of course this is only for short. Someone with greater knowledge about armours should get all of these and complete it with reliable sources and give us conclusion. As Jim is used to saying: “there is more research needed!” .

I’m sorry for a messy writing but I live in hurry lately.

Regards!

Photos: mainly scans from Robinson's book "Oriental Armours" plus Sind helmet from Museum (if someone forgot what about we are talking here)
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Old 14th May 2005, 11:01 AM   #8
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I also agree that it is highly unlikely that a Sindi helmet from the 18th century AD is descended from a 5th century BC Greek Corinthian helmet.

I think it is possible that the masked/visored helmets worn in Iran, Russia and Central Asia are descended from Hellenistic 'Masked helmets' and Roman so-called ' cavalry sports' helmets.

I think a more likely origin of the Sindi helmets is local. I vaguely remember that some Indian kulah khuds had a very large lower end to the sliding nasal, I suppose it is possible that this expanded nasal could have evolved into the face mask on Sindi helmets. Helmets covering the face are not new to Islamic armour however, 14th century Iranian and Turkish helmets had mail camails that completely covered the face, as did 15th century Turkish and Iranian 'Turban helmets'.

Please excuse the quality of this picture, its a poor photocopy of a black and white photo in a very old book.


'Turban Helm'
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Old 14th May 2005, 11:11 AM   #9
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Allow me to propose that the big difference between the "Eastern" and "Western" helmets in question is not sharply drawn, but lies in the manner of attachment of both the main plates of the skull part, and of the dependant attachments. The masked Greek helmet shown is entirely unfamiliar to me. But the "Corinthian" or barbut type is not, and is the oldest of the types under discussion. These helmets were forged from one piece of metal, or from two joined at the crest (one piece is considered more skillfull production). Additionally, these helmets sometimes incorportated a facelike mask, supposedly a portrait of the owner, within the "Y". I don't know how such mask was joined or if it was of one piece with the helmet, but it was rigidly attached. Use of this type of helmet, little altered, continued up through the medieval period. Likewise, the Celtic and German European helmets said (falsely, IMHO) to derive from the Latin helmets (actually this seems a fairly general luxury Euro type, predating the primacy of Latins), mostly the Latin infantry helmet is creditted here; this is your "spectacled" "Viking" helmet, really a dressed-up nasal helm. The crown is made in one piece (best), or two joined at a crest: like a barbut, or, more common and lesser, is the spangenhelm; spanked helmet; rivetted or welded together with a hammer; the crown typically made of 4 or 6 triangular plates joined into a variously conical dome. The adjuncts are typically also rivetted or rigidly joined. Nasals are usually solid extensions of the crown ridge. Alternately or in combination with a nasal bar are reinforcing hatlike visors above the eyes, sometimes shaped like eyebrows (the extended spectacle-tubes seem to be limitted to the Latin gladiatorial arena until the renaissance, when they are occasionally seen, along with every other weird shape, it seems; the artisans of the time had a streak of deliberate outlandishness and/or inventiveness to much of their work; it was a time seeking transitions.....). Ear and neck plates sometimes "float" to some degree, but usually on an attachment of rotating rivets, thick leather, or sometimes metal hinges. Versions of these are known in both rawhide and coppery metal, as well as combined materials, and some early versions (seeming widespread) were covered with boars' tusks (as in the preIslamic Pacific, the pig is a very important symbol/totem in preChristian Europe). These seem to have beefed up and filled in until they became the European "great helm". The "Asian" helmets seem to find a flexible row of chain mail, usually at least two links wide (quite flexible) sufficient for attaching the plates, even often for the upper skull (not at all sure I agree that this is sufficient though a good liner helps). Nasals are often seperate and moveable. Medieval European hinged faceplates tend to rigidly lock in place; the Eastern ones seem to swing freely? What of the hinged Persian ones we're looking at? Any side attachments to stiffen up the assembly? In between geographically.......
One presumes the masks served for identification as well as to frighten enemies. Some are very fierce in expression, fanged, etc, but, and in especial reference to Gladiator helmets (actual as well as to some other helmets by extension), which are often facelike in having eye and breath holes, but not anthropomorphic, and rather robotic looking, the unhumanunemotionality of the "face" is held to be the frightening thing about it. Have you ever fought an animal that is entirely unemotional during combat? It's un-natural and, I should think, disturbing. I've never fought a large animal that only wanted to eat me; there was always anger, fear, and/or territoriality involved (I've been stalked, by pigs, a cougar, and "the follower", but didn't actually fight them. I don't know that the follower eats; I don't know that it's physical. No man knows the face of the follower. But it'll follow you.). Occasionally there is a human in whom all you can detect is determination. This seems similar to the look of intentness on the tiger when he is moving in on his prey. It is more frightening than anger.
To the side, many old helmets incorporated a padded liner, while others were meant to be worn over a (usually special) hat, and some ancient warriors were said to use their long hair coiled in specific traditional ways, as a helmet pad. The "Swabian knot"/"Swabian braid" worn by soldiers may connect to this tradition.
Japan fits in here somewhere, probably, with resemblance to the mainland Asian floating pieces/flexible joints, and then with some relation of shape, etc. to other Pacific helmets (perhaps most notably N Pacific ones).

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Old 14th May 2005, 02:31 PM   #10
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I spaced this earlier, I guess, but the oft-cited reason for the Roman cavalry face is that it was shaped like the face of the wearer, to sit on his face at every point (atop a thin padding), and thus greatly increases visibility over more protrusive protections. I've worn helmets, and assure you this is very relevant. Similarly so with Renaissance Europan "close helms". Similarly, ear holes in helmets are indeed for hearing thru. They work better if close to the ear, and a person can be deafened thru them, but penetration, or by a flat whack that forces compressed air into the ear. The helmets we've been discussing don't seem to fit so closely to the face though, so maybe not real relevant.....
dang it something is under my S key........!
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Old 16th May 2005, 06:00 PM   #11
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I agree with these excellent and well placed observations, that direct influence from Greek helmets with facial guard is unlikely for 17th-19th c. Sind examples. I think what is interesting is the concept of facial guard, especially those with anthromorphic or grotesque embellishment. I also agree with the idea of psychological effect, which is always a fascinating topic in the study of ethnographic weapons. As Tom has well described, the very impersonal, and often virtually inhuman, effect created by removing the 'humanity' of the human face is disturbing in itself. Therefore the concept of the hidden face is equally a purpose along with protection from wounds with these faceguards.

The acknowledging of early attention to protecting the face, as well as the frightening inanimate and often grotesque featured mask, is simply referencing not necessarily congruent use of this concept. It is often difficult to find exact source of influence for motif or style in arms and armor, but degree of plausibility increases as more examples are discovered and with the good fortune of dated provenance, a chronology develops.

The Sind helmet is particularly fascinating because of its similarity in concept, not necessarily exact form or construction, to these early forms with facial protection.

Outstanding observations gentlemen! Lets keep looking OK.
Any other helmets in the Persian, Indian subcontinent with facial guards that comprise a solid mask?

Best regards,
Jim
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