Witham Shield - Appearance


The Witham Shield is an example of the style of Celtic art known as La Tène. The bronze facings shows evidence of having been reworked. The most noticeable feature is the central dome which would have been required for functional reasons as it allowed the owner to hold the shield close to its centre of gravity. Originally a leather silhouette of a long-legged wild boar would have been riveted to the shield around the central dome, as indicated by small rivet holes and staining of the shield. The pattern of discolouration was very clear when the shield was recovered from the River Witham (see 1863 drawing below). Although it is still possible to see the discolouration under certain lighting conditions, the boar design is no longer easy to make out. The boar may have been a tribal emblem or represented the prowess of the shield's owner, but could also have been a representation of the Celtic god Moccus. The shield also has a number of birds and animals incorporated into the design. The roundels at each end are inspired by the heads of birds, which are supported by horses with wings for ears. Birds similar to crested grebes are engraved on the central spine and this completes the engraving work elsewhere.

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