Last modified on 1 August 2007, at 20:12


A shield is a defensive implement carried in the hand or attached by a strap to the arm of a soldier, as a protection from the weapons of the enemy. A shields may vary greatly in material and form. In Africa lion hide and basketry are much used, the former mainly in the east and south among the cattle-rearing peoples. In Indonesia, Australia and the Pacific region those of wood are more common, though basketry ones are also found. The Australian shields are small and light, suitable for parrying blows, and in this are similar to those of the Dinka and Mundu of the Sudan; elsewhere they are mostly for covering the most vital parts of the body. The shield is essentially the means of defense for those who use the club or spear and who fight mainly in the open. It is not convenient for a bow and arrow people since it interferes with the free use of both hands. In New Guinea, however, this difficulty has been overcome. Among the Tapiro pygmies of New Guinea, a small shield is hung around the neck in a net bag in such a way as to protect the chest. Among the Gulf tribes of Papua a large wooden shield, which has on its upper edge a deep slot for the passage of the left arm, is suspended over the shoulder.