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Twilight of the Kings

The Stössen helmet and royal tomb

The Thuringii centre of power lay in the area around Erfurt and Weimar, where noble courts and populace were concentrated. Around AD 505, the brothers Herminafried and Berthachar divided the empire. The latter established a sub-empire in southern Saxony-Anhalt with its own royal court. The burial site of a Thuringian headquarters was uncovered near Stößen in what is now Burgenland district: 103 inhumations, seven cremations, and four horse burials date between AD 390 and 568. The grave inventories represent all social classes up to the prince. The location of the site suggests a connection to the seat of King Berthachar.

Despite being robbed, one of the graves from Stößen stands out by virtue of gold threads from a brocade robe and a precious clasp helmet. Both come from the Mediterranean, from Italian or Byzantine workshops. Presumably, they are gifts from the Ostrogoth king Theodoric to King Berthachar, whose tomb this probably is.

Clasp helmets were part of the officers' equipment in Byzantium and Italy between the 4th and 7th centuries AD. However, because of its gilding the Stößen example is not a simple officer's helmet. The Christian symbolism points to an Italic workshop that worked for the Ostrogothic court.

The helmet type is named after its construction feature: Four to six copper clasps mounted on an iron band and brought together in a curve form both the headband and framework; iron plates are fixed in between. In addition, there is a socket for the crowning helmet plume, cheek flaps, and chain mail for a neck guard.

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