Height: 83.600 cm
Width: 46.800 cm
Weight: 2.750 kg
Gift of RMC Group plc
P&EE 1986 9-11
Prehistory and Europe
Iron Age, 400-200 BC
From Chertsey, Surrey, England
An unusual thing to dig up with a mechanical digger
This is the only Iron Age shield made completely from bronze ever to have been found in Britain or Europe. Bronze shields found at Battersea and Witham are each composed of a metal front fitted onto a wooden shield. Other shields made entirely of bronze date to earlier centuries. This shield was found in 1985 by the driver of a mechanical digger excavating gravel from an old silted up channel of the River Thames. The shield had been bent and crumpled by the digger, but the patience and skill of staff from the British Museum's Department of Conservation have restored it to its original appearance.
The shape of this shield is oval and is the same as wooden shields used by Iron Age people, 'Celts', who lived in France, Germany and northern Italy at this time. It is complete and made from nine different pieces of bronze; the shield did not need a wooden backing and only the handle was made of wood. This is ash and has been radiocarbon dated to 400-250 BC.
It would have taken skilled craftspeople a very long time to make this shield and it was probably not made to be used in battle. Without a wooden backing the shield could be smashed by swords and penetrated by spears with ease. The shield was probably made for display, for showing off. Like the Battersea, Witham and 'Thames' shields, the Chertsey shield was deliberately placed in the River Thames.
From the collection of the British Museum
I.M. Stead, 'Many more Iron Age shields from Britain', The Antiquaries Journal-8, 71 (1991)
S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)