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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer


Incised wooden narrow shield


Incised wooden narrow shield

Object information

Physical description

A wooden shield. The face of the shield features an incised design in a zigzag and diamond pattern. The face of the shield is lightly ochred with white.

Statement of significance

This collection comprises a club and three shields all provenanced stylistically to southeastern Australia. These objects were made and decorated using stone and or animal tooth tools which indicates they were made in the early nineteenth century before the widespread availability of steel tools. The shields are of the two major types used in southeast Australia, a broad, thin shield used to defend against spears, and two narrow, solid shields used in individual fights with clubs. The broad shield would once have had a cane handle inserted between two holes at its centre, but like many other old weapons of this type, the handle is now missing. The club displays a particularly complex linear design along its shaft to the tip of its head, with a band of fine cross hatching at the handle end.

The art of woodcarving, especially of men's weapons, was particularly strong in southeastern Australia. The National Museum is fortunate to hold a representative collection from this region including nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century material. However the older nineteenth century objects are definitley rarer. Many were collected in the first years of colonisation and were taken away from Australia, travelling to England, Europe and America when Australian immigrants, or their families, returned to their homelands. By acquiring demonstratably older objects the National Museum is able to extend the time depth of it's existing collection and more fully engage with Aboriginal source communities who are themselves rediscovering this highly significant heritage resource.

Object information

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