PD·1 Ženjak

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Classification: helmet
Archaeological Type: Negau helmet, Slovenian type, variant Vače

Material: bronze
Size: length 28 cm, width 26 cm, height 18 cm, thickness 1 mm
Condition: complete, damaged
Autopsy by: Corinna Salomon, Sindy Kluge
Date of autopsy: Jan 10 2014

Archaeological culture: La Tène A
Date: second half of 5th–beginning of 4th century BC
Date derived from: typology

Site: Ženjak (fraction of: Benedikt, Podravska, Štajerska, Slovenia)
Field name: Obrat
Archaeological context: hoard
Coordinates (approx.): 46° 35' 54.30" N, 15° 53' 17.07" E
Find date: November 1811
Find circumstances: by chance
Finder: Jurij Slaček
Current location: Kunsthistorisches Museum – Antikensammlung (Wien)
Inventory no.: VI 1659

Inscription: PD·1 (zuφniφanuaφi)

Alternative sigla: none

Sources: Egg 1986: no. 324



First mentioned in Hormayr 1823: 143.

Images in Mommsen 1853: Taf. I, 12A (drawing = Marstrander 1925: 38), Reinecke 1950: Taf. 11 (photo), Egg 1986: Taf. 243 (photos), Nedoma 1995: Abb. 1 (photo), Urban & Nedoma 2002: ?? and the image database of Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.

Bronze Negau helmet of the Slovenian type, variant Vače. Domed bowl, with median ridge and small flanged rim, cylindrical base. Blackish green to dark green and brown patina on the exterior, corroded light green to brown beige on the interior. All surfaces show traces of corrosion. On the back side a section of the brim is broken. The lining plate is completely missing. All around the bowl above the chamfer stamped decoration in form of a row of spiral eyes. Cf. Egg 1986: 227 (no. 324).

Four inscriptions – one filed as Celtic in LexLep, three as Raetic in TIR – are situated close together at the front of the helmet (chamfer and brim). Apart from the inscriptions, the helmet bears two marks: at the back on the chamfer, a chevron U3 s (height 1.1 cm) is embossed with a pointed tool, with the left hasta made up of 18, the right, slightly crooked, of about 21 indentations; on the rim on the right side as the helmet is worn, embossed R3 sR3 d (height 0.6 cm), possibly a manufacturer's mark (cf. Reinecke 1950: 132; Nedoma 1995: 19).

The helmet can be attributed to the variant Vače (subtype with spiral-eye decoration) based on its dimensions and the decoration on the bowl despite the missing lining plate and typical tube-shaped bails. The area of production cannot be precisely determined, but is likely closer to the Isonzo / Central Alpine region than the find place. For typology, distribution and the dating to the mid-5th–early 4th century see Gabrovec 1966, Egg 1986: 68, 78–82 and Urban & Nedoma 2002: 52–56.

The Negau helmet A (thus called since Marstrander 1925) was found as part of the eponymous Negau helmet hoard near Ženjak (helmet no. 1 in Reinecke 1950: 132). The circumstances of the find are detailed in Reinecke 1950: 117–125 (with older literature p. 118, n. 6; rectifying previously published information). Originally twenty-six stacked bronze helmets were found by the farmer Georg Slascheg (Jurij Slaček) in November 1811 after clearing a plot of woodland belonging to the hamlet Obrat for cultivation, during the third round of ploughing. No other finds were made on the plot, and an excavation conducted in 1942 by Walter Schmid of the Steiermärkisches Landesmuseum Joanneum also did not bring anything else to light. The coordinates given above reflect roughly Reinecke's observation that the plot lies at the very northern end of the hamlet's grounds, a few hundred metres north-east of Ženjak (though Obrat proper lies somewhat to the south). Slaček destroyed one helmet, presumably to get metal samples, and sold the remaining 25 to a coppersmith, who melted down or sold eight of them. The now remaining 17 helmets made it to the Joanneum in Graz, which had to pass twelve on to the Antikensammlung in Wien. Three of the helmets sold by the coppersmith eventually found their way to the Joanneum, and one to the Krainisches Landesmuseum (today Narodni Muzej) in Ljubljana; two more – in the Antikensammlung München and the Antikensammlung Berlin – are also likely to come from the Ženjak hoard (but cf. Urban & Nedoma 2002: 54). See Reinecke 1950: 132–140 and Egg 1986: no. 296, 297, 303–305, 315–321, 324–328, 331, 336–339, 353 for details about the individual helmets. Apart from helmet A, only one other specimen (helmet B; no. 21 in Reinecke 1950: 138) bears an inscription; nine more bear various marks (see Nedoma 1995: 8 and 30 f. [n. 47] and the overview in TIR).

The Ženjak hoard includes helmets of different types, the oldest (the inscribed helmet B; see TIR) of the Italic-Slovenian transition type as old as the first half of the 5th century, the two youngest of the Idrija type dated to the late La Tène period (Egg 1986 passim, overview in Nedoma 1995: 17 f.). The deposition of the helmets is usually assumed to have happened between the late 2nd and mid-1st century.

With its variegated collection of helmets, the Ženjak hoard cannot be interpreted as a deposit from one manufacturer. Yet the helmets are in good condition in comparison to, e.g., those of the Vetulonia hoard (Nedoma 1995: 9 f.), which were systematically destroyed as typical for votive gifts with an original practical use; whether the deposition of the Negau hoard was intended as reversible or irreversible (ritual) remains unclear. If the helmets' last function was votive, it is still unclear whether the deposition at Obrat itself constituted the ritual act or whether the helmets had been sacrificed previously and ended up at Obrat in the course of a secondary/unrelated action. There is no indication of a sanctuary of any kind in the vicinity of the find place. Egg 1986: 87 (also 1988: 262) suggests that the helmets were battle spoils collected over a long period of time, displayed as trophies or as votives in a sanctuary closer to the helmets' distribution area, and eventually brought to Obrat (for reasons unknown). It cannot be entirely excluded, however, that the helmets all come from the same battle, as we must assume that intact pieces were still worn long after their time of production. The hoard has been connected with various historically documented conflicts in the area (cf. Urban & Nedoma 2002: 56). The careful stacking of the helmets not too deep underground makes a storage depot possible. See Nedoma 1995: 9–15 for an exhaustive discussion of the various and ultimately inconclusive options for interpretation.


Egg 1986 Markus Egg, Italische Helme. Studien zu den ältereisenzeitlichen Helmen Italiens und der Alpen. Teil 1: Text, Teil 2: Tafeln, Mainz: Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum 1986.
Egg 1988 Markus Egg, "-", in: Angelo Bottini et al., Antike Helme - Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Mainz: Verlag des Röm.-German. Zentralmuseums Mainz 1988, ???.
Gabrovec 1966 Stane Gabrovec, "Chronologie der Negauerhelme", in: Massimo Pallottino, Renato Peroni, Mariarosa Corona, Virginia Corona (eds), Atti del VI Congresso Internazionale delle Scienze Preistoriche e protostoriche. Roma 29 agosto - 3 settembre 1962. Vol III: Comunicazioni Sezioni V-VIII, Roma: 1966, 114–120.