A Corinthian Greek helmet in apparently good conditition, its x-ray reveals repairs.

A Heavily restored Corinthian helmet

The question

Objects in the museum’s collection may have undergone extensive restoration, for which no record survives. X-radiography may enable this to be identified and any necessary remedial care applied.

Results of analysis

This 5th-century BC “Corinthian” Greek helmet is amongst the oldest objects in our collection. Although it appears to be very well preserved, X-radiography revealed extensive soldered repairs.

Significance

It is thought that these repairs and attempts to hide them under an imitation patina are probably the work of a 19th century restorer. Such irreversible, unidentifiable intervention is no longer considered ethical by conservators. In this case the restoration may also hide an important part of the history of the helmet. Much of the armour and weapons found by archaeologists at Greek temple sites has been deliberately damaged in the ancient past, presumably part of the deposition ritual that celebrated military victories.

Output

The striking X-radiography image that contrasts so strongly with the photo of the helmet has been used to illustrate several presentations on the use of scientific techniques and on conservation ethics.

Did you know?

Finest Sheffield steel

One of the finest pairs of Colt 1861 navy revolvers in the world, in mint, unfired condition, are in the Royal Armouries collection. They were presented to Mark Firth, the Sheffield Steelmaker who supplied Colt with steel.