Design your own Iron Age Shield
Prepare for prehistoric battle with an Iron Age shield! Read the information to learn about shield designs and some famous shields found at archaeological sites, then download our templates and start designing your own.
THE PURPOSE OF A SHIELD
Shields were carried on a person’s arm and used in battle to protect the wearer from attack. In the Iron Age they were made of thick wood and had to be strong enough to withstand blows from an axe.
Some highly decorative Iron Age shields (such as the Battersea shield, pictured) have also been discovered. These are made of a thin piece of metal and would originally also have had a wooden backing. Many are decorated in what’s called the La Tène style. La Tène is the name given to a group of Iron Age people living in Europe from c.450–50BC, who are also known as the Celts. They were skilled metalworkers and developed a distinct style of decoration, featuring circle and spiral patterns.
These shields wouldn’t have been suitable for battle, so they would have had a ceremonial purpose. One suggestion is that they were votive offerings – this means that they were given to the gods as a gift.
FAMOUS IRON AGE SHIELDS
The Battersea shield is one of the most famous examples of a votive Iron Age shield. It dates from around 350–50BC and was dredged from the River Thames in London in 1857. It is made of bronze and decorated with hammered and raised patterns, engraving and enamel.
Another famous example is the Wandsworth shield (pictured), also found in the River Thames. The design around the edges is two birds with outstretched wings and trailing tail feathers. This bronze shield would have been further decorated with enamel studs or Mediterranean coral.
As they were found in rivers, it’s believed that these shields were deliberately thrown into the water as an offering to the gods. Both of these shields are on now display in the British Museum in London.
DESIGN YOUR OWN SHIELD
Now it's your turn to design your very own Iron Age shield. We’ve created a template that you can download and use – choose from a round or an oblong shape. Decorate your shield using any materials you like, such as coloured pencils, crayons, paint or collage.DOWNLOAD YOUR TEMPLATES