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About this Resource
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Length 1.24 m; Width 270 mm
One-piece shield of wood, decorated with shells. The shield is basically rectangular in shape, slightly waisted on the longer sides. It is convex in both longitudinal and transverse axes, in the latter case developing a "keel" which becomes increasingly pronounced towards the centre. On the reverse is an integral grip: a raised spine extending the length of the shield increases in height and width towards the centre, where the hand-grip is formed by a rectangular opening, transversely cut. At one end of the spine is an expanded terminal; the other end is missing. Bindings of palm-wood are nailed along either side, while a narrow strip of the same material is nailed to form a midrib. Towards either end are three encircling bands of five such strips, threaded at regular intervals through the shield and the midrib strip and round the outer bindings. The obverse face is set with discoid and pear-shaped fragments of shell (a number of which are now missing), recessed into the surface and in some cases held in place by small iron pins. The degree of wear and the method of mounting the shells makes identification difficult, but the large cowries could be the Indo-Pacific Ovula ovum L. or, perhaps, polished sections of the common Indo-Pacific tiger cowrie Cypraea tigris L. Much of this face has been treated with a black pigment, but a rectangular central section, flanked at each end by a pair of curvilinear decorative motifs, has been left untreated. A long gash and several stab-marks may have been sustained in use.
Shields of this type, which are normally attributed to the Alfuren peoples, are common throughout the Molucca islands. They share a common structure but with variations both in shape and decoration, and include short, narrow parrying-shields with a pronounced longitudinal curve, and longer, wider shields which would offer better defense against projectiles. The parrying-shields are those most commonly illustrated in the literature and were used throughout the islands by men and boys. This example, of the larger form, has been variously provenanced to Buru Island in the south, and to the north and central Moluccas.
Museum Id. No:
1685 B no. 2: Scutum Indicum Ligneum; 4 pedes longum, unicum tantum Latum. media parte paululum gracilescit, ad extremitates aliquantulum est Latius. parte convexa conchis venereis albis ossibusque undique exornatur. circumferentiam totam ambit vimen