Monday, 1 February 2016

More beehive helmet

Yep, I've been doing a bit more work on the beehive helmet.  I now have the outer shell of the helmet fully assembled.  I've connected my outer helmet pieces together using strips of felt sewn to the edges of the leather bands.  The felt strips connect the leather bands together, and cover up the joins.

This is to some extent a matter of interpretation, but it's an educated guess based on what we know about beehive helmet construction.  If I was making a boars' tusk helmet I would place strips of felt behind each row of tusks, and fold the felt edges over the ends of the tusks to create a nice neat edge.  It's also possible to use thin leather for this step, but personally I prefer felt because it can be stretched and eased to fit the helmet's curves.  It's more difficult to do that with leather.

Another reason I think this stuff was felt, not leather, is that in Minoan paintings it is brightly coloured.  I'm not sure if it was possible to dye leather bright colours using bronze age techniques, but they could certainly dye wool.

Take a look at these warriors from one of the Akrotiri frescoes.  Although the figures are very small and not especially detailed, we can see blue stripes between the rows of boars' tusks on their helmets.  We can also see that the cowhide used to make their shields is not dyed, which makes me wonder if they perhaps didn't have effective processes for dying leather.  If anyone knows, please comment and enlighten me.

Picture from The Stream of Time.

I made the felt myself, because commercially produced felt doesn't have the right properties for a Minoan helmet. This is stiff, solid fabric about a quarter inch thick and quite different from what you can buy at a craft store.  I used to think the felt was largely decorative, but now I'm starting to think it may have provided some level of protection in its own right.  It turns out Thucydides and Pliny both mention felt as being arrow-resistant.

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