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Old 22nd February 2021, 02:04 PM   #1
Norman McCormick
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Default Beja Shield

Hi,
A hide shield of the Beja. Most of the items from this part of the world were bring backs from the mahdist period and I have no reason to suspect this is otherwise. A diameter of 23 inches and good thick hide in pretty good condition.
Regards,
Norman.
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Last edited by Norman McCormick : 22nd February 2021 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 22nd February 2021, 02:24 PM   #2
colin henshaw
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A good example Norman, thanks for posting. They are often found damaged/buckled.

Regards.
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Old 22nd February 2021, 02:38 PM   #3
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I agree, itís in good condition.
I like the simple construction.
What animal is it from?
What purpose does the cutouts around the outer perimeter serve?

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 22nd February 2021, 03:53 PM   #4
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Lovely example

Elephant hide I believe

Here is a link to my a lot worse to wear one

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=26260

Regards

Ken
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Old 22nd February 2021, 04:24 PM   #5
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Hi,
Thanks guys. Yes I believe elephant hide is the preferred material for these. As far as the meaning or use re the cutouts I think the jury is still out on that. Spear rests seem to be the most popular explanation but I'm not convinced.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 23rd February 2021, 07:05 AM   #6
colin henshaw
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
Hi,
Thanks guys. Yes I believe elephant hide is the preferred material for these. As far as the meaning or use re the cutouts I think the jury is still out on that. Spear rests seem to be the most popular explanation but I'm not convinced.
Regards,
Norman.


I read somewhere that the cutouts were to improve the vision of the person holding the shield...
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Old 23rd February 2021, 10:23 AM   #7
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I saw somewhere that it was for the defense
they held their shields to protect their bodies and used the cutouts to strike with their spears without exposing the striking arm.
Here a picture from 1895
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Old 23rd February 2021, 04:51 PM   #8
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Thanks for the picture, Kabur.
To me, the idea of a rest/guide for the spear makes a LOT of sense. I don't know anything about the fighting styles of the Beja, but if they fought in any kind of formation, such a shield design would allow a thrust to be delivered with the spear without disrupting a shield wall. This can be done without such a cutout, but this divot in the shield would allow greater control and precision in the thrust. This is the same reason a thrust using two hands would let the leading hand serve as a guide, while the thrust was delivered by the trailing hand. The problem with this two handed thrust is that it would expose the body as any shield would be moved to the side (or the soldier wouldn't even have the shield as it would serve as more of an encumbrance). Look through some of the European pikeman drilling manuals of the 1600-1700s (I forget the dates, actually) and you'll see what I mean. If this is indeed the purpose of these cutouts, the Beja have a rather elegant solution to this problem. Makes a lot of sense if you aren't wearing an iron breastplate like the European pikemen would have had.
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Old 24th February 2021, 03:09 PM   #9
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Hi,
The photograph posted by Kubur does give some credence to the spear rest theory and I can understand the formation shield wall theory, seems plausible. The improvement of vision I'm not so sure about, I did try it but somehow it didn't feel right, the cutouts were in the wrong place when holding the shield with the grip in the vertical which was the position that seemed most natural.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 25th February 2021, 12:12 PM   #10
colin henshaw
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
Hi,
The photograph posted by Kubur does give some credence to the spear rest theory and I can understand the formation shield wall theory, seems plausible. The improvement of vision I'm not so sure about, I did try it but somehow it didn't feel right, the cutouts were in the wrong place when holding the shield with the grip in the vertical which was the position that seemed most natural.
Regards,
Norman.


Here is a relevant extract from a book I have to hand ... "Man & his Handiwork" by the Rev. J G Wood 1886, that describes these shields and mentioning the visual aid aspect. The shield shown by Wood has large shallow cutouts, but another common form has much smaller, almost enclosed cutouts that clearly could not act as spear rests. Some images of this type from the internet are attached.

A possibility could be that two types of shields were produced by Beja tribes ... one for spearmen with large shallow cutouts and another for swordsmen with the small "spyhole" type ?

I think there are references elsewhere to these Beja shields and their usage, if I can find any I shall post them.
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Old 26th February 2021, 02:36 PM   #11
Norman McCormick
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Hi Colin,
I see where you're coming from now. I notice the shield illustrated by the Rev Wood has an elliptical shape as against the more general circular shape. I wonder if there is any evolution from one shaped cutout to another as I suppose one could argue that the cutouts on mine and others of course could act either as a visual aid or a spear rest. Thanks for the continued info.
My Regards,
Norman.

P.S. Some more images of Beja shields.
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