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H.R.Robinson Helmet Typology
#1
The recent miniature review in Ancient Warfare Magazine for a 3rd-c CE mini by Dr. Mike Thomas has made me think about the H.R.Robinson helmet classification once more. In the following I would like to lay down why I think that the H.R.Robinson classification is outdated and should no longer be used by scholars, as well as by the reenactment community. (The Miniature wears a Niederbieber type helmet, which is - defined by the large neck-guard an Infantry helmet)

1. The H.R.Robinson helmet classification is inconsistent. It tries to classify by findspot, (Montefortino), by type (Imperial Gallic / Italic), and by use (Auxiliary Cavalry)

2. The H.R.Robinson helmet classification invokes a system of chronology by typing the helmets alphabetecally. Studies made since Robinson´s work was published have shown that this chronology is in several cases not given. Helmet types that were unknown at all in his time are not included in the system, and not easily includable.

3. The H.R.Robinson helmet classification is not always working in cases where new helmets are found, which may fit several types at once.

4. The H.R.Robinson helmet classification is wrong in the case of auxiliary cavalry helmets - most of them are in fact Infantry helmets.

5. The H.R.Robinson helmet classification serves no real purpose. It would serve a certain purpose if it would work as it was originally intended, showing by type a chronology in helmet development, which would easily help in dating of archaeological context etc. Since the typology does not work in this way, as explained above, it is basically more confusing than helpng. At the moment categorizing a helmet into H.R.Robinson´s typology is often difficult and then, accomplished, serves no other purpose than having it classified.

Thus I think that the older way of classification is much simpler, less confusing, and accurate. This is a mix of classification by findspot or characteristics.
e.g. Hagenau, Weisenau, Montefortino, Buggenum or "Face Helmet", "Mask Helmet" etc.
In that sense it would be even easier to reduce the whole classification simply to first find spots.
Whenever a particular helmet is meant it would still be called by a certain findspot. "Theilenhofen Helmet" or "Weisenau helmet from Straubing" etc...

What do you think?
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.

LEGIO XIII GEMINA

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#2
It may be difficult to classify helmets by first find spot name as some
helmets no longer have that information connected with them.
I agree a new classification system is overdo but it may take a major
book on helmets to get the system accepted. It would be interesting
if the time period of estimated first use was reflected in the system.
Caesarian, Augustian, Early Republican, Late Imperial etc

Examples:
Early Imperial Gallic Type A1 (findspot unknown)
Late Imperial Italic Type 3c (Rheims)
John Kaler MSG, USA Retired
Member Legio V (Tenn, USA)
Staff Member Ludus Militus https://www.facebook.com/groups/671041919589478/
Owner Vicus and Village: https://www.facebook.com/groups/361968853851510/
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#3
Quote:In the following I would like to lay down why I think that the H.R.Robinson classification is outdated and should no longer be used by scholars, as well as by the reenactment community.

Some scholars refuse to use it precisely because a typology can only be constructed once in order to study a given body of data and that all attempts to extend it ('I think that looks like an Imperial-Gallic D' - 'no, it's more an E shading into an F') weaken and ultimately invalidate it.

A typology is like scaffolding. It is useful for the construction and demolition of hypotheses, but it is only ever a temporary structure and must not be allowed to detract from the thing around which it has been erected, sometimes shoddily - the body of data.

If you want to understand typologies, read David Clarke's Analytical Archaeology and have a look at his monumental work on beaker pottery. There is more wisdom on one page of Clarke than in a hundred textbooks on Roman archaeology.

Robinson's typology was absolutely right for his work and a refreshing break from the First-Find system of naming (which just gets clumsier the more it develops). Once you try to view a body of data through a particular typology system, you limit your possible interpretations. The excitement, vivacity, and potential of typologies lies in always developing new ones because there IS no ultimate one that we can now retrieve.

A typology is always a tool, never a sacred cow.

Mike Bishop
You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles

Blogging, tweeting, and mapping Hadrian\'s Wall... because it\'s there
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#4
One of these days we need a debate, or thread, on concepts of Archaeological theory and Historiography. It is interesting to note that Clark's work dates from the 70s and has never really been surpassed.

R. Izard
(Binfordist)
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#5
I do have to agree with much of what you are saying Christian and even more so since I reconstructed the Weisenau 369 ( Gallic D Robinson ), there is however very much the same kind of thing beginning to come along today. This is where I now start to hear things like "A Kalkriese Type Face Mask" where indeed there were these type of face masks around long before the Kalkriese came out of the ground. There is just one in particular I can think of and that is the one from Vetchen in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden Leiden, infact if we look very closely at this one we see the same workshop that the Kalkriese one may have come from.
Brian Stobbs
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#6
I agree that the Robinson typology is outdated and wrong in may aspects.

The "continental" system has the advantage that the subtypes are so broadly defined as not to need constant updating with new finds and also appear to correctly reflect chronology (montefortino > hagenau, weisenau > niederbieber).

However, being so broad, it gives little room for differentiation and a more detailed system may still be useful. Developing such a more detailed typology will, however, be a daunting task because the number of specimens is still small and it is still very much unclear whic specific features (size and slope of neck guard? style of eyebrows? crest attachment?) may also imply a chronological relationship.

Given that such diverse helmets as the

Imperial Gallic A from Nijmegen with its crude "Gallic" eyebrows,

the beautiful well developed Imperial Gallic from Oberaden (not sure what Robinson type this would be assigned to), and the

ugly Imperial Gallic with a large strongly sloping neck guard from Tenedo/Zurzach (no Robinson type either)

are all firmly to the decade before and after the birth of Christ and therefore broadly contemporaneous, an attempt to assign a date based on typology appears bound to fail.
Regards,


Jens Horstkotte
Munich, Germany
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#7
Quote:the H.R.Robinson classification is outdated and should no longer be used by scholars,

This is my opinion , too, although the Robinson classification is nevertheless a useful tool to talk about helmets .

But , if you allow me to generalize, I think is evermore a mistake to identify a close classification for roman weapons.

We never find two helmets identic each other , as is quite impossible to find two gladii or two pugiones selfsame.

In ancient time there were not the modern industries , as of course we all know.
Is only possible , and more right, to talk about "first period" , for example, as well as "medium period" , but not more.

Saying "that's a gladius hispaniensis " or "a mainz" , is , as my opinion, always a mistake. I think we would have to say "that's a republican or first imperial gladius".
Marco

Civis Romanus Optime Iure Sum
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#8
Robinson is clearly outdated. I find myself using a mixture of typologies to try and fit some of the later finds into an easy to understand description. A perfect example is the helmet from Carnuntum (private collection) that we recently reconstructed. It has elements of I-G-I (neck guard and crest finial shape) and also has no eyebrow or neckguard decoration (like The Aux Inf. B) PLUS iron cheek plates of a unique design!!

Quote:Developing such a more detailed typology will, however, be a daunting task because the number of specimens is still small and it is still very much unclear whic specific features (size and slope of neck guard? style of eyebrows? crest attachment?) may also imply a chronological relationship.

I agree. Without implying a chronology, one system would be quite difficult to attain. It is definately time for another to be developed, but even if the members here could agree on one system, how, without publishing a mighty tome on helmets could we, the RA.com members get it accepted by the Archaeological community?

Quote:We never find two helmets identic each other

Schaan, Lichtenstein - 2 x Coolus C :wink:
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#9
I vote for the "mighty tome" option!
It would include:

All known helmets and parts
Detailed color photos
Detailed measurements
Find location and other information
Metallurgical analysis
Charts and graphs
Current/last known location
A section on how to spot fakes
Photos of reconstructions

Be available at your local bookstore and only cost $24.99!!!!

And while I am wishing for the impossible I get to win the lottery so
I can finance the work!
John Kaler MSG, USA Retired
Member Legio V (Tenn, USA)
Staff Member Ludus Militus https://www.facebook.com/groups/671041919589478/
Owner Vicus and Village: https://www.facebook.com/groups/361968853851510/
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#10
What question is interesting-а how many helmets were found of those or other types? If to draw analogies to Kirpichnikov typology of helmets to Russia there them 5 and two subtypes still was. The mess in general is and it is connected to a plenty of types. It is thought, that it should be simplified a little. The author is rights, I think in some questions. The typology should be more universal, and here it is too narrow. But, on the other hand - make another.
:wink:
optio cohortis II praetoria
Andrew Olehnovich
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#11
Quote:I vote for the "mighty tome" option!
It would include:

All known helmets and parts
Detailed color photos
Detailed measurements
Find location and other information
Metallurgical analysis
Charts and graphs
Current/last known location
A section on how to spot fakes
Photos of reconstructions

Be available at your local bookstore and only cost $24.99!!!!

And, as soon as it is published, be out of date with the first new find! And as the body of data grows, the more impractical a dead-tree book becomes. The only option for a comprehensive catalogue of material is an online one (where you could construct as many and varied typologies as took your fancy from the raw data) and it was that idea that I tested with Armamentarium, the drawback being that it cost time and money to produce (you can certainly use community effort to supply the time in a wiki sort of set up but the money for the rights to photos is always the killer and for a proper publication, museum-quality photos would be a must).

Mike Bishop
You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles

Blogging, tweeting, and mapping Hadrian\'s Wall... because it\'s there
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#12
How about that as a RAT 2009 project- with CD ROMs sold by Jasper to help finance it?

With the RAT collective brainpower, energy, and access to pics, we could really contribute to progressing knowledge here (and Mike can award us all honorary doctorates when its finished!) :wink:
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aka Paul B, moderator
http://www.romanarmy.net/auxilia.htm
Moderation in all things
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#13
Quote:How about that as a RAT 2009 project- with CD ROMs sold by Jasper to help finance it?

With the RAT collective brainpower, energy, and access to pics, we could really contribute to progressing knowledge here (and Mike can award us all honorary doctorates when its finished!) :wink:

Not a bad idea in theory Paul.....but somehow I can't see a CD with pictures of Jasper in a bikini being a big enough seller to fund this! :twisted:
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
Titus Flavius Germanus
Batavian Coh I
Byron Angel
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#14
Quote:
Caballo - PB:2k9ojx01 Wrote:How about that as a RAT 2009 project- with CD ROMs sold by Jasper to help finance it?

With the RAT collective brainpower, energy, and access to pics, we could really contribute to progressing knowledge here (and Mike can award us all honorary doctorates when its finished!) :wink:

Not a bad idea in theory Paul.....but somehow I can't see a CD with pictures of Jasper in a bikini being a big enough seller to fund this! :twisted:

You can threaten people to contribute money by saying that otherwise they'll get a visit by Jasper in a bikini. I think it might work 8)
Jef Pinceel
a.k.a.
Marcvs Mvmmivs Falco

LEG XI CPF vzw
>Q SER FEST
http://www.LEGIOXI.be
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#15
If ever there were a Tarbicus photoshop opportunity, this is it...... Big Grin
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aka Paul B, moderator
http://www.romanarmy.net/auxilia.htm
Moderation in all things
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