A Rainforest Shield, North East Queensland Late 19th Century
- Carved fig-wood (Ficus alpipila), natural earth pigments, native binding fluids, sap and nails
- 95cm by 33cm
The designs on shields such as this are associated with clan totems and are thought to possess protective qualities when used in battle with large single-handed sword clubs. The shields also played an important role in the initiation ceremonies of young men. This example shows evidence of extensive use in combat, and has several nails embedded along one edge for fortification.
“Lumholtz (1889) recorded that shields of this type where used to deflect spears, clubs and boomerangs during large gatherings of Aboriginal people, where disputes between individuals and groups were settled. He also noted that the designs applied to the front surface of such shields differed, suggesting that they constituted an individual's 'coat of arms'.” Ibid. p.76