Chertsey: Bronze shield from the Thames

Image: Trustees of the British Museum

Image: Trustees of the British

A bronze shield discovered in 1985 in a gravel pit at Abbey Meads, Chertsey. The shield was given to the British Museum for identification and the museum has now received the shield as a gift from the owners. Although in shape it is typical of a Celtic shield, it is unusual as it is made entirely of bronze. It is the only bronze shield yet to be found in the Celtic world. The Celtic shield was normally made of organic materials and was oval with a raised spine down the long axis, which expanded in the centre to form a spindle shaped boss. The boss covered a central hole which was bridged by a horizontal handle, and would have protected the warrior’s hand.  It is unlikely to have been used in battle, and was probably made as a votive offering.  Such ritual offerings were often deposited in rivers and lakes, and many have been found in the River Thames.

The shield is a simple example of a type used for about 500 years, and is not elaborately decorated, which makes it difficult to date on stylistic grounds. The wooden core to the bronze handle was preserved which allowed samples to be taken and dated by the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art. The samples have been dated to 400-200 BC (2250+/-80 BP, OxA-993).  The shield was discovered with other finds and is probably from a former watercourse.   See Historic Environment Record 4182 for Late Bronze Age sword found in same area.  An exact replica of the shield was donated to Chertsey Museum in 2002.

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