The words HARN STE engraved in the neck roll of the helmet could indicate the place of origin of the first owner, perhaps the town of Aharnam, the current Civitella d'Arna, near Perugia
Italian archaeologists had not noticed the inscription before, but the discovery – announced Tuesday by the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, Italy, and which will be featured in Archeologia Viva magazine – comes more than 90 years after the bronze helmet was found in the Osteria di Vulci necropolis in 1928.
The inscription, engraved within the neck protector of the helmet, consists of seven letters – HARN STE – which probably indicate a place of origin, of either the object or the owner, and which must be read as a single word, the museum said as a statement.
This is, in fact, a “very unusual” inscription that “offers fundamental information for reconstructing the military organization and the evolution of the art of war” on the Italian peninsula before the hegemony of Rome.
It is virtually certain, judging from its style and craftsmanship, that the helmet belonged to an Etruscan warrior – a member of the people who dominated an important portion of present-day Tuscany – and it has been dated to the middle of the Fourth Century BC.
At that time, central Italy was rife with bloody conflicts among local tribes, who competed for predominance on the peninsula or simply for survival, threatened as they were by the spread of the Celts, who in 390 BC put Rome to the sword.
This was long before that city, founded according to tradition in 735 BC along the Tiber River, became the world center of power and expanded during its imperial epoch to hold sway across the length and breadth of the Mediterranean basin.
The helmet tells archaeologists something about those years of blood and war for dominion of the Italian peninsula. For example, it may be that the fact that the inscription is on the inside of the helmet indicates that its owner habitually marked his possessions in that way.