We always imagine the Vikings as fierce nordic warriors, equipped with heavy iron axes and wearing the unmistakable horned helmets. However, no historical evidence suggests that the Vikings actually used such helmets in combat.
Leif Eriksson on the shore of newly discovered Vinland (Newfoundland)
The practice of burying the dead war heroes with their weapons and armor has left modern archaeologists with plenty of evidence about the Viking culture and lifestyle. However, only few horned helmets have been ever found in Viking burial mounds.
Historical sources suggest, that priests among the Celtic and Norse peoples did wear helmets equipped with horns (sometimes also with wings), during the most of religious ceremonies, however, they were never used in combat. The modern image of Viking in a horned helmet dates back to the 19.th century, when people like Gustav Malmström and Richard Wagner included the horned headgear in their works for the first time.
Painting of a Viking ship
No sane Viking warrior would ever wear a horned helmet in battle – they weren’t that stupid. Helmets with horns would be very impractical in combat, likely ending entangled in a tree branches or embedded in a shield. In addition, enemies could use the horns as a great handhold while slitting the Viking warrior’s throat.