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A very rare Shield
Santali buckler, West Bengal
An early all steel example

A very rare Shield Santali Santal Assam Garo Hills Sonthal Paraganas buckler Chota Nagpur West Bengal An early all steel example www.swordsantiqueweapons.com


A very rare buckler shield of the Santal people of Jharkland, Western Bengal.

A shield type that little information is known. Very few are found in Museums, and they have only received minor attention in publications. Surviving weapons of the Santali can be found in museums in Oslo, Bergen, Copenhagen, and Leiden, mostly due to the long-standing Missionary expeditions and settlements throughout the regions.

These shield types are quite varied. Many encountered are atypical in that that are concave in construction, although others, both early steel and later brass examples are typical concave designs. In either configuration, each shield carries a spiked protrusion to one side and a fixed ring to the other.

There has been much speculation as to why these unique aspects are found. Some suggest the spike was for fighting, the ring for carrying something, perhaps an axe or some other personal item. It seems to me, from examining both types, the convex type is not very suitable to martial applications where the spike is concerned as it is off centre at an upward angle and little leverage can be had. Perhaps this type served a more ritual or votive purpose, or as seen in the drawing below, part of ritual war dances.

E.R.Watson in his 1907 work, notes the steel Sonthali shields as famous and bullet proof. Unfortunately lack of context does not support reasons behind these writings where these particular design is concerned, however, material culture from missionary settlements does clearly point to a solid shield of the same type, which is flat and approx 1/2 an inch thick. This shield has applied domes and the same spike and curved protrustion.

Below are several images of other shield types.

This example is 21.5cms in diameter. At the longest point, it is 45.5cms long.

A rare and seldom seen piece of Santal history.

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