Cabasset Helmet

This helmet was the first intact 16th-17th century armored helmet discovered at Jamestown. It was constructed of two overlapping pieces of iron which were hammered and riveted together. Above the narrow brim is a row of holes that would have included a band of leather secured by rivets. This leather band would have been stitched to a fabric helmet lining, which is no longer present. This is the only complete cabasset helmet recovered to date, but fragments of other cabasset helmets have been recovered from early fort period contexts on site, including Pit 5, the Soldier Pits, The Factory, the First Well, the Kitchen and Cellar, and the West Bulwark.

The cabasset helmet, derived perhaps from the Spanish word capacete, meaning “little cap”, or from the Spanish word cabeza, meaning “head” was a light helmet that could have been worn by Jamestown colonists while aiming a firearm. Similar to the Burgonet helmet, cabasset helmets were used in the 16th and 17th centuries by light cavalry and infantry soldiers in Europe.

Curiously, the helmet was recovered sitting upright. This was unusual because other helmets on Virginia archaeological sites were found on their sides. The positioning of the helmet indicates that it may have been intentionally buried. Pit 1, where this helmet was found, could have been where many artifacts were buried by the few survivors of the starving time who abandoned Jamestown under the orders of Sir Thomas Gates. The colonists departed the island on June 7, 1610, but were found by Lord de la Warr the very next day and ordered to turn around and return back to James Fort.

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