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?

4 Eiffel Towers

During the siege of Sebastopol the British fired about 10,000 tonnes of iron shot; the French fired 510,000 round shot, 236,000 howitzer shells and 350,000 mortar shells – a total of around 43,000 tonnes of iron! About the same weight as 4 Eiffel Towers.