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Old 22nd September 2018, 04:12 PM   #1
CharlesS's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Greenville, NC
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Default A Poor Man's Shield from SE Asia???

This lovely old shield was listed on eBay as Zulu shield which clearly it is not. When I saw the first photo of it, I dismissed it as "junk", but once I had studied the thoroughness of the bamboo frame, rattan binding, and the structure of the rear frame, it became clear that this may not have been a "high society" shield, but it certainly beat my original thoughts of it being "junk".

The shield is made from what I believe is light but tough, hardened water buffalo hide. It is stretched over four rings of tough bamboo which gives it a tough outer edge. The inner frame is created by two slats of wood bound to the rest with rattan. The handle is rattan woven on to the two slats with the center portion of the hide pressed forward to make room for the hand.

It will win no beauty pageants, but, as a shield, it is a very interesting thing, both light and durable.

The structure seems to me to be a form similar to other SE Asian shield forms, though we are used to seeing more elegant examples. There is a certainly some age to it with the bamboo well patinated and the hide showing it age and wear and tear, as does the rattan binding.

Any thoughts about its origins are welcomed.

Diameter: 23in.
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Old 23rd September 2018, 01:19 AM   #2
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Hi Charles:

Very interesting shield. The hide still has quite a lot of hair, and I wonder if this is taken from a wild boar. The hair seems very straight and tough, and possibly longer than I associate with water buffalo. Would you call the hair "bristles?"

As far as its origin, I would not rule out northern Burma, Nagaland, Assam and other areas in NE India, and even southern Yunnan. The broad rattan strips used to bind this shield together are very commonly used in those areas, and the nonspecific knots are also used there (as well as many areas of SE Asia). I remember seeing another shield similar to this one, but don't recall its attribution.

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Old 23rd September 2018, 04:25 PM   #3
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Good observation!... the hide may very well be wild boar. The shield is so basic it just doesn't give many hints or clues about an exact origin. I had considered Burma, N. Thailand, and Northern Vietnam real possibilities. I had not thought of Assam.

If only were more clues, say an arm ring or second vertical bolster, we might have more to go on.
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