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The Witham Shield

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Witham Shield
  • Description

    Copper alloy decorative front of a shield, originally fixed to a wooden or leather back. The shield has two roundels, a central spine and boss with La Tène decoration. The shadow of the shape of a boar remains as a different colour in the patina on the front of the shield.

    The body of the shield is made up of two metal plates with a U-section binding around the edge. The spine and end roundels are attached by rivets through the metal plates. The protruding length of these rivets from the back of the plates suggests that the original wood or hide backing was 6 mm thick. Domed washers held the rivets in place at the back.

    The central boss, spine and end roundels are all made in one piece. The boar outline originally applied to the front of the shield may have been made from leather/hide and the holes for the pins which held this figure in place are still visible. It is possible that the boss, spine and roundels may have been applied at the later date than the manufacture of the shield and later the boar outline. The boar outline may not have been present at the same time as the boss, spine and roundels.

    The upper end roundel is damaged, but the lower end roundel is complete and retains its central roundel with dished centre which has a raised rosette design. Around the outer part of each roundel is a decorative design made up of a repousse, wavy, raised line which ends in a pair of comma-shaped recesses, each of which encloses a 'snail-shell' boss with a tail. At the junction of each boss with the central spine is what appears to be an abstract animal head design. The design is formed by a pair of domed 'eyes' decorated with an engraved triangle dividing each circle into 3 zones. An elongated bulbous 'snout' extends away from the roundel along the spine. This and the area near the 'eyes' is decorated with engraved lines that give the appearance of 'wrinkles'. Either side of the 'head' nearest the 'eyes' are a pair of palmettes.

    Delicate scroll ornament is engraved some way from the end of the 'snout' along the spine and the edge of the central spine has a border of a raised zig-zag motif within a groove.

    The oval boss is richly decorated with repousse ornament. This consists of two design complexes, one on either side of a diagonal axis. Each has a pair of circular areas to one side which are enclosed by ridges. In the angles formed at the intersection of these is a rosette on the outer side and a coral stud on the inner side. These ridges are connected by 'snail-shell' bosses with a tongue that extends along the central spine. At the centre of the boss is a roundel decorated with three segments of coral, each attached to the spine with fine pins. Between each pair of 'snail-shell' bosses are a circular and a triangular openning which may have originally revealed a backing of some material colour-contrasted with the surface of the shield.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 400 BC - 300 BC (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Type series

    • La Tène
  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 1092.2 millimetres
    • Width: 345 millimetres
  • Bibliography

    • Jope 1971 bibliographic details
    • Fox 1958a p.26-27, note 14 on p.31 bibliographic details
    • Jope 2000 p.54-63, Plates 60-69 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G50/dc9

  • Exhibition history


    2016 11 Mar- 25 Sep, Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland, Celts. 2015-2016 24 Sep-31 Jan, London, BM, G30, 'Celts: Art and Identity' 2013 11 Mar-10 Jun, Lincoln, The Collection, Spotlight: The Witham Shield 1984 Apr-Oct, Lincoln City and County Museum, Lincoln comes of Age: Twenty-One Centuries of Living History

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: The Witham Shield


COMPASS Title: The Witham Shield

Image description



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Object reference number: BCB8398

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