Helmets of this type are called ‘turban helmets’, either because they were worn over a shock-absorbing turban or because their domed shape resembles such headwear. In the late fifteenth century, the type was especially widespread among the Turkmen tribes in Iran and Anatolia, and turban helmets appear in several miniatures from the Turkmen so-called Big Head Shahnama
from 1494 (42/2006
An aventail (protective chain mail) would originally have been attached along the bottom edge, and the four holes at the front would have held a nasal. The funnel-shaped finial is intended to hold a plume or a flag. The tip and dome are adorned with foliage and meandering arabesques. Above and below the dome are two broad bands with Arabic inscriptions written in floral eastern Kufi
script. Furthermore, the bands along the rim are densely covered in pseudo-calligraphy. The decorations have been created by means of engraving and the koftgari
technique, where a thin layer of silver is rubbed or hammered onto the scratched surface. Remains of gilding can also be seen in some places along the bottom edge of the helmet.
The inscriptions on the helmet praise an unnamed ruler with a range of glorious titles also known from other helmets made in Anatolia in the second half of the fifteenth century.
The arabesque designs are typical of the period’s Turkmen metalwork, and closely related motifs adorn the rim of an oil lamp commissioned by the leader of the Aq Qoyunlu Turkmen, Uzun Hasan, around 1470 (45/1999
Above the left semi-circular opening for the eye is a small, circular engraved mark (tamgha
), which shows that the helmet has been part of the Ottoman Hagia Eirene arsenal in Istanbul, probably as booty.