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Cabesset from Southwestern New Mexico

Found in a rock shelter with Native American artifacts this helmet dates to around the time of the Coronado expedition. It was found in the 1930s and was sold, and finally was donated by its third (modern) owner.


Italian cabesset with morion-like swept brim that was added later. The helm itself is made in one piece of hammered iron, with a pear stalk at the apex. The edges of the brim are crimped under. Round-headed rivets are at the base of the bowl and around portions of the brim. One hole found on each side are likely where straps or cheekpieces attached. 

This modification that added the swept brim illustrates that the early to mid 1500s was a time of transition in material culture. Crossbows were dropping out while matchlocks were coming into use. Similarly, morion-style helmets were soon common. Later the crested helmet that is usually shown in Coronado expedition artwork came into vogue. That crested helmet that is so iconic with respect to the Coronado expedition was not used at this time.

Likely an indication of the person who repaired the helmet, an impressed stamp on the underside of the brim seems to read: D I P V C C I. Assuming the V is actually a U this may read Di Pucci, which is a common northern Italian name. I am told that a maker's mark would not look like this. There are no additional markings visible. Many helmets were made in Italy at the time. Here one of the prepared holes in the brim can be seen that may have been used for a strap or perhaps a cheek guard. A rivet holding the brim pieces in place and a rivet around the base of the helmet bowl can be see, along with the crimped edge of the brim that is folded under.


Numerous small rust holes and root marks are visible on the surface. There are also indications of repairs, including this plug that was pounded flat and riveted in place. Portions of the brim have been reinforced and in some instances they seem to have been repaired. Some of the damage may be battle related. Other rust holes may be from the long-term effects of sweat on metal that gradually eat away at the surface. Other rust holes likely result from being stashed in a rock shelter for centuries. The surface shows that it has been maintained, with scratch marks indicating an attempt to clean and polish the exterior surface.

Many of the helmets and other expensive equipment used on the Coronado expedition were family heirlooms, hand-me-downs, or the equivalent of army surplus.

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