‘A Phenomenal Feeling’: 2,500-Year-Old Greek-Illyrian Helmet Unearthed In Croatia

Published April 17, 2024

This ancient warrior's helmet was discovered near a grave on the Pelješac peninsula and may have been a votive offering during a funeral.

Greek Illyrian Helmet

Dubrovnik MuseumsWhile this helmet dates to the sixth century B.C.E., archaeologists found a similar helmet nearby four years ago.

Sometimes in archaeology, lightning strikes twice. And during a dig in the Croatian town of Zakotorac on the Pelješac peninsula, archaeologists uncovered a 2,500-year-old Greek-Illyrian helmet — just 30 feet from where a similar helmet was found in 2020.

The helmet is just the latest incredible discovery made in the area, and may shed light on ancient funerary rites.

The Discovery Of The Greek-Illyrian Helmet

Though archaeologists had found a similar helmet in the area before, the recent discovery of the second helmet came as an unexpected thrill.

“[Professor Hrvoje Potrebica of Zagreb University] lifted the stone and started shouting that he had found a helmet too!” Marta Kalebota, an archaeologist from the Korcula City Museum and a member of the excavation team recalled of the exciting discovery, according to Arkeo News.

Archaeologists Discovering Ancient Greek Helmet

Dubrovnik MuseumsArchaeologists discovered the helmet near the same site where they’d found a similar helmet in 2020.

The previously-found helmet appeared to come from the fourth century B.C.E., while archaeologists believe that the new helmet is older and dates to the sixth century B.C.E.

“It’s an understatement to say it’s a phenomenal feeling. I am very excited, an amazing find, and for the second time,” Kalebota said.

She continued: “This helmet was found ten meters away as the crow flies from the location where the first one was found. It is a little different, it is distinguished from the pages that make us conclude that what has been found now dates from the 6th century B.C.E, which means that it is older than the first one, but we need to research the details further.”

Ancient Greek Helmet

Dubrovnik MuseumsThe helmet dates back to the sixth century B.C.E.

The new helmet was discovered in a walled addition to a grave. This has led archaeologists to suspect that it may have been left as a votive offering — and may help researchers learn more about ancient funerary practices in the area.

Indeed, the two helmets offer a fascinating look at the history of armor in the region.

The History Of Ancient Helmets Found In Zakotorac

“What is very interesting,” Potrebica noted, “is that two different types [of helmets] appear here in the same place, which speaks of a continuity of power of the respective community. These helmets have always been a symbol of some kind of status and power.”

Excavating The Helmet

Dubrovnik MuseumsArchaeologists excavating the helmet in a find they called “phenomenal.”

Greek-Illyrian helmets like the ones discovered in Zakotorac first emerged in the Peloponnese region of ancient Greece. This type of helmet, which was used by ancient Greeks, Etruscans, Scythians, and Illyrians, evolved considerably over the centuries, and went through four different phases of development between between 700 to 500 B.C.E.

The helmet discovered in 2020, for example, differs in some ways from the more recent discovery. That helmet is a more recent iteration, and is open-faced with a rectangular cross-section and decorative edges.

Both discoveries symbolize the rich heritage that exists in the Pelješac peninsula, whose history is intertwined with both ancient Greece and ancient Rome.

Indeed, archaeologists have also previously found clothing, jewelry, and grave goods at the same site, in addition to the helmets. In a statement to Heritage Daily, a representative from the Dubrovnik Museum noted that discoveries like these “ranks the area of Pelješac as one of the most important archaeological zones of the eastern Adriatic coast.”

After reading about the 2,500-year-old Greek-Illyrian helmet discovered in Croatia, learn about life in ancient Greece with this list of fascinating facts. Then, untangle the ancient Greek myth of the “Gordian Knot.”

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "‘A Phenomenal Feeling’: 2,500-Year-Old Greek-Illyrian Helmet Unearthed In Croatia." AllThatsInteresting.com, April 17, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/greek-illyrian-helmet-croatia. Accessed June 21, 2024.