Bronze Artefacts

Later Bronze Age c. 1200 - 600 B. C.

Bronze Ceremonial Shield

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The example of a bronze shield shown above dates to the Dowris phase of the Late Bronze Age circa 700 B. C.  It was found in a bog at Lough Gur in County Limerick.  It has a diameter of 72 cm.  Today it can be viewed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.  It is supposed that it was used for decorative purposes only as the bronze is so thin, and that wooden and leather shields of a similar design would have been used in real combat situations.

This example shows the change in the style of combat in Ireland that occurred after the introduction of the slashing sword.  It is most ingenious in its craftsmanship.

  A simple disc of bronze thick enough to withstand a sword stroke would have been too heavy.  Instead six equally spaced concentric ridges were raised from the surface of a thin bronze plate.  Between the ridges are six rings of raised hemispherical bosses.  The force of a sword blow would have been greatly reduced as it struck a corrugated, instead of a flat surface.  The rim is formed of the in-turned edge of the disc.

The  central boss is surrounded by a basal rim.  At the back a strap of bronze, curved to form a handgrip is riveted to the shield at either side of the boss.  In the ring of bosses third from the outer edge there are, at either side of one end of the handle, two loops of bronze for the ends of a carrying thong.  The loops are held by rivets whose heads on the outside of the shield are the same shape as, and replace, two of the bosses.

Sheet-bronze shields were developed in central Europe during the late Bronze Age.  The use of such shields spread to Britain, where finds are relatively common.  In Ireland shields of leather or wood occur occasionally; those of bronze are very rare.  There are only eight known examples in the whole of Ireland.

Further Reading:

M. Herity and G. Eogan - Ireland in Prehistory London 1977. pp. 195-197. Click link to buy from Amazon.com

A. T. Lucas - Treasures of Ireland:  Irish Pagan and Early Christian Art. Dublin 1973. p.40 fig. 17.

M. J. O'Kelly - Early Ireland: An introduction to Irish Prehistory. Cambridge University Press 1989. p.169. Click link to buy from Amazon.com

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