The Witham Shield

Iron Age, 400-300 BC
From the river Witham near Lincoln, England

The finest example of Early La Tène Celtic Art from Britain

This shield was made at the same time as the Chertsey Shield. In common with the Chertsey and also the Battersea Shield, the Witham Shield was found in a river. It was found in 1826 in the River Witham, near the village of Washingborough, outside the city of Lincoln. When the shield was first found, archaeologists could clearly see the shape of a wild boar on the front. In fact, the shape was cut from a piece of leather and fixed to the shield. The leather has rotted away, but its shadow remains as a different colour in the bronze. Today, the image of the boar has faded, but can still be seen if you look carefully. Small rivet holes across the centre of the shield show where the boar was fixed to the front.

This is not a complete shield. It is a decorative front fixed to a wooden back. The wooden back rotted away in the river long ago, just leaving the metal front. The decoration on the shield is one of the best examples of the way British craftspeople adopted the new style of La Tène art. The red colour on the shield's boss are small pieces of red coral from the Mediterranean. Coral decoration was rare on objects made in Iron Age Britain. Usually, red glass was used, as on the Battersea Shield.

Find in the collection online

The Witham Shield

  • Drawing of shield

    Drawing of shield

 

More information

Bibliography

S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

Dimensions

Length: 109.220 cm ((3ft 7ins))

Museum number

P&EE 1872 12-13 1

BCB8398

Gift of Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore