Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Diameter: 58.000 cm
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks
Room 26: North America
Buffalo rawhide shield
Pawnee, early 19th century
From the American West, North America
Shields such as this were constructed from rawhide taken from the thick neck region of the buffalo. They could deflect arrows and even balls fired from a muzzle-loading flintlock gun.
They were decorated by the owner with designs of spiritual significance to bring them success and protection. They would act as protection in war and during horse raiding. The design, perhaps representing the sun and moon, would have been come to the owner in a vision.
This shield has a soft skin cover in which it would have been stored. This is painted with the war exploits of the owner.
This shield may be the example recorded as collected by Duke Paul Württemberg in September 1823 from a Pawnee chief identified as Schakè-ru-leshar.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)