A new exhibition showcasing a private collection of Roman helmet cheek-pieces not ever displayed together before is showing at Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear from 26 May until 21 September 2018.

Saving Face explores the significance of the Roman helmet cheek-piece, and also features a loan from the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne (SANT) and a never before seen fragment of rare iron cheek-piece found at Segedunum.

Alex Croom, keeper of archaeology at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) said:

“It’s amazing to have a close view of these cheek-pieces and see the level of detail they put into the decoration.

“This collection also gives an idea of the great range and variety to be found in Roman helmets over the centuries.”

Geoff Woodward, Museum Manager said:

Helmet cheek-pieces were small but important elements of Roman armour protection, and their style and condition can offer us a very personal connection with the soldiers that wore them.

“We are very privileged to have a unique collection not seen together in public before, on loan from a private collector especially for this exhibition.”

The fragment of an iron cheek-piece which was excavated from Segedunum in 1998 is rare as there are not many known decorated iron cheek-pieces. 

A cheek-piece dredged from the mouth of the River Tyne (from a possible shipwreck or votive offering) is also included in the exhibition

A whole helmet on display has two different names punched into it – ‘Civilis’ and ‘Lucius Atilius Rufus’.

Cavalry cheek-pieces on display include depictions of two dogs attacking a stag, and an eagle attacking a cobra.  Mars the God of War and Minerva are shown on other examples too, as are mythological twins Castor and Pollux.

Marks upon Roman armour could be deeply personal providing an insight into the soldier who owned it. Roman soldiers were required to buy their own armour, so often those on a smaller salary may have obtained second hand armour that they altered to suit their own tastes.

Often cavalry soldiers had more decoration on their helmets as they were paid more than infantry soldiers. The decorations varied from floral or geometric designs to animals, military equipment and deities, although commonly an ear was depicted.

Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum is on the original site of the actual Hadrian’s ‘Wall’s End’, and where the HQ for shipbuilding giant Swan Hunter was based.

The extensively excavated archeologically site depicts the layout of a whole Roman fort where 600 infantry and cavalry soldiers would have been stationed, with the surrounding port and settlement, guarding the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall.

Segedunum features a 35m Viewing Tower which delivers phenomenal views of the fort remains and across Tyneside. The museum explores the area’s Roman past with a Roman Gallery designed in the style of a Roman fort’s headquarters building and reimagined rooms of a cavalry trooper’s barrack.

Visitors can see real Hadrian’s Wall onsite, the remains of the cavalry and infantry barracks, hospital and original Roman baths, as well as climb a replica stretch of Hadrian’s Wall.

Just a few minutes’ walks from Wallsend Metro and bus station, Segedunum has ample free parking and kids under 16 go free.