Parrying Shield, 19th–early 20th century
Southeastern region, Australia
Wood; H. 33 5/8 in. (85.4 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, 1965 (1978.412.865)
Artists in the southeastern region of Australia formerly created two distinct varieties of fighting shields, each designed for a specific purpose. The first were relatively broad, flat forms, which were used to protect the bearer from projectile weapons, such as spears, throwing clubs, and boomerangs, thrown by an enemy at a distance. The second type were narrow, compact parrying shields, such as the present work, used to ward off blows from fighting clubs and other handheld weapons during hand-to-hand combat. Originally gripped by the handle visible at the left and held with the narrow edge at the right toward the opponent, this parrying shield is adorned with a series of engraved zigzag motifs. There is virtually no historic information on the significance of the patterns on southeastern shields. However, they possibly represent emblematic designs symbolic of the owner's group affiliation or dreamings, the ancestral beings whose actions created the features of the landscape during the Dreaming (primordial creation period).