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The Chertsey Shield

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1986,0901.1

  • Title (object)

    • The Chertsey Shield
  • Description

    Oval shield, made entirely of coper alloy sheet 1-1.25mm thick. Made from nine sections. Broad copper alloy binding around edge. Simple decoration on front, a long spine with ridge rising over the spindle boss, diminiutive terminal finial roundels. One the reverse, a hand-hold of solid ash wood covered with copper alloy sheet is fixed across the hollow behind the boss. The handle has omega-shaped terminals, with the returns resembling stylised birds' heads. The length of the spine is covered with thin strips of copper-alloy sheet on either side of the opening on the reverse for the boss.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 400 BC - 250 BC (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 836 millimetres
    • Width: 468 millimetres
    • Weight: 2750 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    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 (1857,0715.1-2) and in the River Witham (1872,1213.1) are each composed of a sheet-metal facing which would have been fitted onto a wooden shield. Other shields made entirely of bronze (e.g. 1873,0210.2) 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 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 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 shield, the Chertsey shield was deliberately placed in the River Thames.

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  • Bibliography

    • Stead 1987 bibliographic details
    • Jope 2000 No. 69, p.247-8 bibliographic details
    • James & Rigby 1997 p.59, pl.67 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G50/dc17

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:
    2015-2016 24 Sep-31 Jan, London, BM, G30, 'Celts: Art and Identity' 2011 22 Oct- 2012 5 Feb, Perth, Western Australian Museum, 'Extraordinary Stories' 2009 11 Dec-2010 10 May, Spain, Madrid, Canal de Isabel II, Treasures of the World’s Cultures 2009 1 May-20 Sep, Canada, Victoria, Royal BC Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures 2007-2008 21 Sep-20 Apr, The Chertsey Museum, 'The Chertsey Shield' 2005-2006 25 Jul-13 Jan, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past 2005 12 Feb-26 Jun, Newcastle, Hancock Museum, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past 2004-2005 1 Oct-15 Jan, Manchester Museum, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past 2004 30 Apr-21 Sep, Cardiff, National Museums & Galleries of Wales, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past 2003-2004 21 Nov-14 Mar, London, BM, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1986

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1986,0901.1

Copper alloy shield, made from nine pieces of sheet metal.

Copper alloy shield, made from nine pieces of sheet metal.

Image description

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Object reference number: BCB88369

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