2,000-Year Old Celtic Shield Showcases Its Craftsmanship

shieldCredit: MAP Archaeological Practice

Last year, we talked about how archaeologists came across an incredible warrior grave at a 2,200-year-old Iron Age site in Pocklington, Yorkshire. The highlight of the burial pertained to a deftly positioned chariot with two ponies (buried carefully with their back legs bent and hooves just off the ground level) – thereby creating a motional visual impact as if the animals “were leaping upwards out of the grave.” The researchers also came across a fascinating specimen of an entire shield from the cart of the upright chariot. And now, after more than a year, a preservation project has restored the bronze object in its full glory

shield
Credit: MAP Archaeological Practice

Originally, the shield was discovered face-down inside the cart, while the remains of a 46-year-old male occupant were found laid upon the object (much like the Spartan warrior ritual) – which suggests that the shield was owned by this warrior. As for the design aspect, the specimen showcases the typical early Celtic La Tène style with its fair share of asymmetrical swirling patterns. These textural works were done by deftly hammering the bronze sheet from the underside. 

Underlining the impressive craftsmanship that aptly represents the epitome of British Celtic art,  Paula Ware, from MAP Archaeological Practice, who took part in the original excavation project, said –

The magnitude and preservation of the Pocklington chariot burial have no British parallel, providing greater insight into the Iron Age epoch. The shield features a scalloped border. This previously unknown design feature is not comparable to any other Iron Age finds across Europe, adding to its valuable uniqueness.

The popular belief is that elaborate metal-faced shields were purely ceremonial, reflecting status, but not used in battle. Our investigation challenges this with the evidence of a puncture wound in the shield typical of a sword. Signs of repairs can also be seen, suggesting the shield was not only old but likely to have been well-used.

Now given the very nature of opulence that can be associated with the grave, with burial items like six piglets, along with the shield and a bedecked brooch, the researchers have hypothesized that it must have belonged to an elite member/warrior of the Iron Age society.  

And lastly, and quite intriguingly, the archaeologists had also identified the grave of a younger man (17 to 25 years of age) in proximity to the aforementioned chariot burial, with the body being ‘ritually pierced’ by 10 to 12 spears made of iron and bones. On closer examination, his head was found to have suffered a blunt force trauma, possibly during melee combat.

Regarding this bizarre mode of burial, some experts have conjectured that the spears were ‘introduced’ so as ensure the corpse doesn’t rise up. Their hypothesis is based on previous occurrences of similar burial methods derived from local superstitions. However, Ms. Ware believes that the burial could have also signified a form of symbolic respect for the young man who met his death on the battlefield.

Source: The York Press

About the Author

Dattatreya Mandal
Dattatreya Mandal has a bachelor's degree in Architecture (and associated History of Architecture) and a fervent interest in History. Formerly, one of the co-owners of an online architectural digest, he is currently the founder/editor of Realmofhistory.com. The latter is envisaged as an online compendium that mirrors his enthusiasm for ancient history, military, mythology, and historical evolution of architecture.
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