A fragment of a Bronze shield boss/umbo, from a rectangular Roman Scutum (shield). There are remnants of the ornate "punched" design that it once had. A repetitive floral pattern surrounds the raised portion, followed by a dot pattern border.
On the right side is the top portion of a Roman standard (which would have been carried into battle). A Roman standard was considered very sacred and represented the legions honor and was a source of their pride. This fragment clearly shows the standard with its stacked circular attachments and rectangular plate, ending with some kind of curved point. (Refer to Example left)
The top part has a wavy line pattern as well as a straight border. A vertical oval shape is to the right of the standard and is unidentified however may stand for good luck. A similar symbol appears on the large example in the museum photo (to photo left).
One of the rivet holes still remains and shows how this would have been mounted on its shield.
There are Five "gashes" in the bronze item all parallel running horizontally, above and below the standard. This is perhaps evidence of battle damage or some other unknown means. The Patina does appear to cover this piece, including the "gashes" so that indicates they are from ancient times (perhaps when the fragment was going to be recycled as scrap).
The Patina is a dark green color and small brighter pitted green spots are visible up close. The reverse still has remnants of some dirt and/or dust. The item has however obviously been cleaned to a level that does reveal some of the original bronze. This is unfortunate, however was the common practice and teaching (refer to any shiny Roman helmet in the British Museum).
These bronze items were commonly personalized to represent the individual soldier and his legion, using a simple pointed tool (similar to the Eagle artifact with the Soldiers name on it). The similar and more complete example in the attached photo shows one that was further engraved with the legions name.
The Roman shield was very important and was often used as an offensive weapon to strike the enemy. (hence the forward hand grip as opposed to the should/forearm more commonly know).
Upon closer examination the thickness of the actual fragment does shed some considerable doubt on the use of the shield as a weapon. The thickness of the piece is only 0.35-0.4mm as it was "dished" out during production (Clear repeated hammer marks are visible on the items reverse). The "dishing" process requires the item to be repeatedly hammered to extend the metal outwards (producing the dish shape). The end result however is a thinner metal, when compared to the surrounding area. The thickness of this dished out area does not appear to be strong enough to be used to "punch" the enemy as some suggest.
-painting by John Warry
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(1) References to similar items: FEUGERE, Michel; Weapons of the Romans, page 89 2002.
(2) References to similar items: CONNOLLY, Peter; The Legionary, page24 2000.
(3) References to similar items: WARRY, John; Warefare in the Classical World, page 148 1995.
**Note on background. A Fresco from the ancient Roman City of Pompeii. The interior walls of a wealthy Roman's Estate 79AD. Picture taken July 2005.