That Which Glisters
March, 2013

We used to own a house in France.
Sounds grand, I know, but it wasn't really. Just a two-bedroomed cottage which was originally the grain barn on a farm, but it was an extremely pleasant holiday home on the edge of a village. In fact, at one stage, I thought we might go there to live, though I was soon disabused of that as a desirable idea. But that's a completely different story.
The house was in Agris — well, it still is, of course — a beautifully tranquil village in the Charente, an hour or so's drive north east from Bordeaux. The nearest town of any significance is La Rochefoucauld, with its very romantic castle and meandering river, not to mention its lively markets and chocolate factory!
Extending almost to the boundary of Agris is the massive Braconne Forest, where, in 1981, a magnificent Parade helmet was discovered buried inside a cave just outside the village — probably from the rich sepulchre which was being researched in that area.
The helmet is made of iron, and is covered with a bronze sheet, decorated with repoussé patterns, which is coated with a thin sheet of gold foil. Another precious material used in its decoration is coral (which is now white in colour), fixed to the helmet with gold-capped iron rivets, in patterns representing anthropomorphic faces. The neck-cover also seems to have been fixed in place by rivets.
Some parts of the helmet are missing: the top, which was probably decorated with coral buttons, and the cheek-covers, the imprints of which are still visible.
It dates from the La Tène period (late 5th to early 4th century BC), and is the second such Celtic golden helmet ever to have been found. It is now housed in the museum in Angoulême, and a copy is on display at the town hall in Agris.