Apart from a very small number of (likely) ritual helmets that could fit into the category, no preserved horned helmets have been found thus far.
Interestingly, only one complete Viking helmet has been discovered so far – it was found in 1943 on the Gjermundbu farm in Norway.
Furthermore, researchers think that such helmets would have been ill-suited for the style of combat that Vikings used.
Actual Viking Age depictions illustrate Viking warriors as either bareheaded or clad, with simple helmets (likely made out of iron or leather).
The Gjermundbu farm helmet is a 10th-century artifact with a rounded iron cap, a guard protecting the nose and eyes, and – most importantly – no horns.
Where does the myth come from?
The root of the famous representation of Vikings wearing horned helmets can be connected to the activities of the Geatish Society (Götiska förbundet), a club of Swedish artists founded in 1811 that worked on promoting and spreading Norse culture and mythology in art, among other areas.
In the efforts of the Geatish Society, Vikings were frequently portrayed wearing winged helmets and robes associated with Classical antiquity. This was often the case when it came to representing Norse gods.
The efforts aimed to provide legitimacy to the Viking culture and mythology by connecting them to the symbolic sphere of Classical antiquity.
At the time, Gustav Malmström was one of many artists who depicted Viking warriors with horned helmets. Later on, in the 1870s, costume designer Carl Emil Doepler created horned helmets for the Viking characters of Richard Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" opera cycle.
Alternatively, some experts believe that 19th-century artists could have been inspired by discoveries of ancient horned helmets later determined to predate the Vikings.
In any case, these artistic contributions solidified the horned helmet myth.
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