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Bronze shield


Diameter: 54.500 cm

P&EE 1856 7-1 1350

Prehistory and Europe

    Bronze shield

    Bronze Age, 1200-1000 BC
    From the River Thames, London, England

    Sheet-bronze parade armour

    Sheet metal shields such as this are ostensibly defensive armour, though in fact they could not have been very functional. Although this shield is slightly thicker than other examples, it would still have become extremely disfigured if used in real combat. Parade armour, designed to be worn for display by important warriors, was developed in central Europe by 1300 BC and spread quickly to certain other parts of Europe. Rare survivals of functional shields in wood and leather have been found in the Irish bogs, while Scandinavian and Iberian rock carvings provide evidence of the wider use of round shields.

    The face of the shield is made from a single sheet of bronze which has been beaten out to size, then embossed to raise the decoration. There are eleven concentric ribs, alternating with rings of round bosses. The rim of the shield is folded round a thick wire, while a tubular handle has been rivetted to the back. Originally there were also two shoulder-strap tabs rivetted on, but these have been cut out, leaving holes in the shield. Some of the damage to the Thames shield is thought to be ancient, resulting from a deliberate onslaught. This 'ritual killing' of objects before deposition is a regular feature of buried Bronze Age metalwork.

    J. Coles, 'European Bronze Age shields', Proceedings of the Prehistor-7, 28 (1962), pp. 156-90

    S. Needham, 'Two recent British shield finds and their continental parallels', Proceedings of the Prehisto-12, 45 (1979), pp. 111-34


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