Josh & I were talking about an earlier post about a kite shield found in Oxford . That got me thinking so I went looking for early medieval shields in the Bayeux Tapestry. It also helped me understand the difference between the kite shield used in the Norman conquest of England, and the smaller heater shield used after 1250 AD. The shield we were talking about looks like a heater shield, but let’s start with the kite because I found some nice images of them.
This image and many others in the tapestry show the shields hanging point down, and used largely as passive barriers against spears and arrows. There is a circle in the center of each, probably a boss.
This image is wonderful because it clearly shows the straps affixed to the back of the shield. There are two straps for the arm, placed close together high up on the shield, and a third, longer strap that is either draped over the top of the shield or used to hang the shield from one’s neck (called a guige strap). The double straps are not seen on the one 2nd from the left, and the black and red shields show additional fixtures or studs.
On to the heaters. According to wikipedia, the heater is thin wood overlaid by leather, sometimes with additional layers of gesso (a white paint), canvas &/or parchment. That describes that the shield found in Oxford pretty accurately, which means it would be from 1250-1600 AD or thereabouts if it was authentic medieval piece. But I’m having trouble finding authentic shields to compare it to. I did find a prop shield that looks similar but the rest were all either made for the S.C.A. or were metal reproductions made for hanging on a wall.