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Burgonet Ca. 1590-1610
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Western European burgonet ca. 1590-1610, typical of the munition quality armor shipped to early colonists in America. This form of helmet became popular starting about 1550 and was favored by horsemen and increasingly by infantry because of its lightness and greater field of vision. There are nice parallels in archeological finds at Jamestown in Virginia and records of other early European activity in America such as Champlain's actions against the Iroquois in the northeast.

This helmet surfaced recently at a Massachusetts auction without any provenance, but would make a nice addition to any collection including elements of colonial American arms and armor.

The body of the helmet is forged from one piece of steel with a raised central comb, a brow with rolled edge, a flared neck guard with a single attached lame with a rolled bottom edge and two cut outs for hinged cheekpieces that are marked by rivet holes for the hinges. Six rivets extend around the base of the helmet bowl on the front, just above the visor, and another six around the back of the bowl, which would originally have secured a lining. The helmet bowl extends slightly down the neck and flares out forming a flange. A single lame is attached to this with three rivets. The underside of the flared neck shows two double-rivet points of attachment that are not matched on the lame and indicate the helmet was modified during its period of use by removing an intermediate lame to shorten the neck extension.

The helmet shows a small corrosion hole at the base of the helmet bowl over the wearer's right eye. Forward of this the point of the visor is pushed back slightly from an impact and there are two short cuts to the rolled edge.

I show three photos of reference sources. The first is a composite of two pages from Rene Chartrands French Military Arms and Armor in America showing two burgonets (one in the Fort Ticonderoga collection) and an early print of Champlain's defeat of the Iroquois based on his own sketches, showing him wearing a burgonet along with pikeman's body armor. The second is from Harold Peterson's Arms and Armor in Colonial America that shows two burgonets, one German and one thought to be English. Last is an illustration showing a burgonet that was recovered from a well at Jamestown. As side note, it is interesting that a separate excavation at Jamestown recovered a lower visor, or bevor, discarded in a cellar, indicating colonists were modifying a closed burgonet to use the open helmet body on its own.

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