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The Battersea Shield – The most famous Celtic shield ever found in Britain

David Goran

The Battersea shield is an amazing work of art, the most famous piece of Celtic art ever found in Britain. This magnificent Iron Age shield was dredged up from the Thames shortly before 1857, during excavations for the predecessor of Chelsea Bridge, and it is probably made in eastern England circa 350-50 BC, though later dates up to the early 1st century AD have previously been suggested.

In the same area, workers also found large quantities of Roman and Celtic weapons and human skulls.

Found on the site of Chelsea Bridge in 1857 and now in the British Museum. Photo Credit

Found on the site of Chelsea Bridge in 1857 and now in the British Museum. Photo Credit

 

It dates to the Iron Age, between 350 and 50 BC. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

It dates back to the Iron Age, between 350 and 50 BC. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

The Battersea Shield is a sheet of bronze covering a wooden shield (now vanished) and is made of several pieces, held together with bronze rivets and enclosed in a binding strip.

The decoration is in the typically Celtic La Tène style, consisting of circles and spirals, made using the repoussé technique, emphasized with engraving and stippling.

Originally it had a wooden back, but only the bronze is left now. The decoration is typically Celtic in terms of art style consisting of circles and spirals. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

Originally it had a wooden back, but only the bronze is left now. The decoration is typically Celtic in terms of art style consisting of circles and spirals. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

The shield has twenty-seven red glass ‘enamel’ framed studs in four different sizes, the largest set is located at the center of the boss. Even the handle of the Battersea shield was very ornate.

It is one of the most significant pieces of ancient Celtic military equipment found in Britain.

It is decorated with repoussé decoration and enamel consisting of circles and spirals. Photo Credit

It is decorated with repoussé decoration and enamel consisting of circles and spirals. Photo Credit

 

Perhaps the design signified magical properties or religious meanings, offering the user power and protection. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

Perhaps the design signified magical properties or religious meanings, offering the user power and protection. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

However, because the bronze sheet is so thin and fragile, and too short to provide sensible protection, archaeologists suggest that it was actually never used in battle and was more probably an offering; objects such as shields and swords were sometimes thrown into rivers as offerings to a god.

Read another story from us: Considered to be the most impressive ever found, Tara Brooch is a Celtic brooch of about 700 AD

The shield is on display in the British Museum, while a replica is housed in the Museum of London.