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The Battersea Shield

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Battersea Shield
  • Description

    Bronze shield facing; scrolls in relief; made of several pieces of sheet bronze. With twenty-seven red glass 'enamel' framed studs.

    The Battersea shield is not in fact a complete shield, but only the facing, a metal cover that was attached to the front of wooden shield. It is made from different parts of sheet bronze (4 sheets and 3 decorated panels), held together with bronze rivets and enclosed in a binding strip. All the rivets are hidden by overlaps between different components where the panels and roundels were originally attached to the organic backing.

    The decoration is concentrated in the three roundels. A high domed boss in the middle of the central roundel is over where the handle was located. The La Tène-style decoration is made using the repoussé technique, emphasized with engraving and stippling. The overall design is highlighted with twenty-seven framed studs of red glass 'enamel' (opaque red glass) in four different sizes, the largest set at the centre of the boss. The dominant repoussé forms on the shield are the palmette and interlocking S-motifs.

    Stylistically, the La Tène-style decoration is not closely related to any other object. Because of this, closely dating this object is difficult. The shield was almost certainly made in Britain becuase of the use of a specifically British form of central circular shield boss.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 350 BC - 50 BC (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 777 millimetres
    • Width: 357 millimetres (maximum)
    • Width: 341 millimetres (across centre)
    • Weight: 3400 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    Atomic absorption spectrometry suggests the metal componets are made from the same metal 85% Copper, 10% Tin 5% Lead. Analysis at the British Museum show the shield was unlikely to have ever been gilded.

    Polarography was used to analyse the red glass 'enamel' and was shown to contain 6% cuprous oxide and 34.2% lead oxide.


  • Bibliography

    • Stead 1985a bibliographic details
    • Spratling 1972 305 bibliographic details
    • Jope 2000 p.65-69, 248. Figs. 76-81 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G50/dc17

  • 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' 2012 15 Sep-9 Dec, London, Royal Academy, Bronze 2007 Mar-June, Beijing, Palace Museum, Britain meets the World 1998 18 Apr-12 Jul, Japan, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Celtic Art 1991 24 Mar-8 Dec, Italy, Venice, Palazzo Grassi, I Celti 1980 1 May-30 Sep, Salzburg, Keltenmuseum Hallein, Die Kelten in Mitteleuropa

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Image Caption: The Battersea Shield


COMPASS Image Caption: The Battersea Shield

Image description



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Object reference number: BCB8496

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