An Oirat Sphero-Cylindrical Helmet and Arming Cap from the Central State Museum Collection of the Republic of Kazakhstan

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We describe an unusually shaped riveted sphero-cylindrical iron helmet and an accessory arming cap made of fabric (Cat. No. 2067/8), owned by the Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan. On the basis of museum documents, we reject the former geographic attribution—Semirechye, southeastern Kazakhstan. Instead, we demonstrate that the items come from the former Cossack village Magnitnaya (presently Magnitogorsk, Southern Urals). Typological analysis indicates that the helmet falls within the interval between the 1610s to early 1700s. The closest parallels are from Western Mongolia, Tibet, and Southern Siberia. We hypothesize that artisans who manufactured such helmets were inspired by the idea of the Buddhist stupa (“suburgan ” in Kalmyk). The likely customers were Oirat Buddhist warriors. This is the first helmet of such type that may be attributed to the Volga Kalmyks—people of the westernmost Oirat enclave in Eurasia. This modifies our views on the Kalmyk armor of that period. The specimen could have got to the Southern Urals as a trophy, diplomatic gift, or barter. It could also have belonged to a Kalmyk warrior who had settled in the land of Bashkir or Kazakhs. The accessory headgear, with a white woolen padding, is shown to be an arming cap. This is the only known original Oirat headgear of such type, dating to the 17th or 18th century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-98
Number of pages8
JournalArchaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022



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