Bronze Age Shield, Thorpe

Bronze Age shieldIn the mid 1960s Sidney Oliver acquired 5 bronze objects reportedly found in the gravel pits at Mixnam’s Gravel Pit, Thorpe.  Bronze Age shields are rare and valuable objects. It took skilled workmanship to create them, hammering out and decorated them with punches in their present form.

This shield belongs to group of shields, mostly found in rivers, offered as votive gifts. A broad bronze strap is fastened behind the boss as a long grip to hold it comfortable. Two tabs, only rivets and a piece preserved, were attached for a suspension strap to carry it over the shoulder or hang it up. This kind of small, thick shields could have been used as a real defensive weapon as well, but they definitely didn’t belong to the common armour, which would be rather out of wood or leather.

Shields/Type Nipperwiese

Approximately 90 shields from the Bronze Age have been discovered in north, west and central Europe, and more than half of those were found in the British Isles. The majority of them were made from one sheet of bronze with riveted handle and tabs for a suspension strap, although they have different decoration

The Type Nipperwiese is a group of eight shields which were mainly found in rivers or dredged up in old riverbeds. There are five from Germany, two from the Thames valley, and one from Poland. All have a very similar decoration and their diameters measure from 37.5–43.7 cm. The average metal thickness is 1–1.3 mm with an average weight of 1.5–1.68 kg, compared with the other shield types they are small and belong to the thickest.

Accurate dating of these Late Bronze Age shields is still problematic since they are all single finds.

List of shields from Type Nipperwiese:

Bamberg, Germany, found 1857 in the river Main (Mittelrheinisches Museum, Mainz)

Bingen, Germany, found 1852 in the river Rhine (Mittelrheinisches Museum, Mainz)

Long Wittenham found 1977 in the river Thames (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Mainz, Germany, found before 1930 in the river Rhine (Stadtmuseum Worms)

Nipperwiese (today Ognica), Poland, dredged up from the Megelitz, a sidearm of the river Oder; (Museum Szczecin, not found)

Schiphorst, Germany; bought 1889, find circumstances unknown (Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Berlin)

Thorpe, England, dredged up 1965-66 near a sidearm of the Thames (Chertsey Museum)

Watenstedt, Germany; a fragment of the rim found close by an excavation of a fortified settlement from the Bronze Age (Hünenburg).


Object file in Research Room, Chertsey Museum

European Bronze Age Shields, Coles, J. M., London 1962

Information kindly provided by Marion Uckelmann, M. A. who has undertaken research in to Type Nipperwiese shields at Frankfurt University