How to read the information in a record
Australian Heileman or shield
Parrying shields of double antelopes' horns, India
Long narrow shields from the Asiatic Isles
Back to the beginning of 'current information'
More about African shields generally
More on wicker shields
1874 catalogue entry:
68. OVAL WICKER SHIELD of the Neam Nam negroes. Central Africa.
"Made of reeds or the leaf of the palm tree, interwoven in patterns of black and white. It is held by the handle in rear of the centre when giving battle, the Neam Nam has two or three of the iron boomerangs (Nos. 183 to 185)[1884.25.1-3], suspended by a leather button to the inside of the shield lying directly over the handle of it; the whole of which and a couple of lances he grasps in the left hand, whilst with a lance in the right hand he assails the enemy. The shield, made of so light a substance, will not repel a lance, but when struck by one, the combatant giving a slight movement either to the right or left, counteracts the penetration of the lance, which becoming entangled and suspended in the shield, furnishes him with his enemy's weapon in lieu of his own, which he is supposed to have cast." Obtained by Consul Petherick. See Royal United Service Journal, vol. iv. p. 176.
Pitt Rivers Museum record:
General Description: Zande basketry shield of black and natural coloured fibre. Accession number: 1884.30.33 Continent: Africa Country: ?Sudan ?Zaïre Group: Zande Dimensions: L = 1180 mm W = 575 mm Condition: Conserved Field collector: John Petherick When collected: 1858 [1853 - 1865] Other owners: John Petherick, ?Royal United Services Institute. Pitt Rivers sent this object to Bethnal Green Museum for display by ?early 1874. Notes:
Black book entry - Screen 2 36 Shield, wicker, Neam Nam Negroes, C Africa (79a)
Delivery Catalogue II entry - Shields from different localities. Oval wicker shield, C Africa 68
Accession Book IV entry - Large oblong-oval shield of fine wickerwork with yellow patterns on black, Azande, C Africa, Petherick coll [Drawing]
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry - Large wicker ovate shield [Drawing], Nyam Nyam PR 36 black
Card Catalogue entry - ALF 68. 1884.30.33. Large oblong-oval shield of fine wicker work with yellow patterns on black. Petherick coll 1858. Original Pitt Rivers collection.
Old PRM label - Large shield of palm leaf basket-work. A lance would penetrate this but when struck by one a slight twist is given to the shield and this counteracts the penetrating force and entangles the lance which can be secured and used. Niam Niam Central Africa Petherick collection PR 68
Current Display Label -  Large palm-leaf basketry shield mostly dyed black with single central handle, used to deflect thrown spears. Shields were carried in the left hand together with between two and four spears. Pressed against the handle of the shield would be up to four throwing knives. The shield was designed to protect about two-thirds of a warrior's body, if he crouched it would have covered all of him. The decoration on the shield acted as a means of group identification. Collected by John Petherick 1858.
Other information - Displayed in Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums (V&A). Petherick, 'On the arms of the Arab and Negro Tribes of Central Africa, bordering on the White Nile', p.176: 'The Neam Nam ... arms consist of the smooth and barbed lance (figs 10 and 14) ... the shield is made of reeds, or the leaf of the palm-tree, interwoven in tasteful patterns of variegated colours (fig 19) .... When giving battle the Neam Nam has two or three of the iron missiles already alluded to (fig 18) suspended by a leather button to the inside of the shield, lying directly over the handle of it, the whole of which and a couple of lances he grasps in his left hand, whilst with a lance in the right hand he assails his enemy. The iron weapon when employed is thrown with great force and in such a manner as to revolve upon its centre when spinning through the air, therefore the wound created by such an instrument must be a fearful one. The shield made of so light a substance will not repel a lance but when struck by one, the combatant giving a slight movement either to the right or left counteracts the penetration of the lance, which becoming entangled and suspended in it furnishes him with his enemy's weapons in lieu of his own which he is supposed to have cast. Attached to his waist is a knife (fig 20) suspended by a ring to the scabbard, hilt downwards which perhaps is the most convenient way of drawing it being easily done without requiring the assistance of the left hand and fitting tight undergoes no risk of falling out. The point of the sheath it will be observed is turned outwards so as effectually to prevent its injuring the owner in case of a fall or whilst stooping'.
PR number: 68
Displayed in Upper Gallery Shield displays at Pitt Rivers Museum.
Top of page