Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
War shield decorated with parrot feathers
Central Province, Papua New Guinea
AD late 1800s
This shield is thin and extremely light. It would allow a warrior to run, jump and manoeuvre his way around a battlefield. Made from a hardwood, it would also protect a warrior from the strike of a spear. If the blow split the shield, then its woven covering helped to hold it together.
Most shields from the Central Province in Papua New Guinea were decorated with brightly coloured parrot feathers like this one. As the shields were held high and brandished, their painted designs, woven patterns and feather decorations all served to dazzle and intimidate the enemy.
Warfare in this region would often be conducted in set-piece battles where wrongs were redressed by causing an injury or even death to an opposing group.