Circular Roman or Celtic Shield Boss

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Roman or Celtic cavalry legionary iron shield boss umbo


Material  Iron
Dimensions 17.5cm diameter

Lip width: 35mm

Rivet hole: 4.32mm diameter

Metal thickness: 0.62mm

Depth of umbo: 40mm

Roman Empire 1st to 5th Century AD

An Iron shield boss/umbo, believed to be for a Roman or Celtic shield.

This example is corroded, yet retains its form well, clearly showing one of the rivet holes where the umbo would have attached to the shield.  The Shield boss provided an opening for the hand to protect it, as well as a solid area for knocking into the enemy. A handle would normally have ran on the inside in a horizontal direction, allowing for the left hand to hold the shield while the right carried the sword/gladius.

The boss/umbo would have attached to the front of a flat Oval or Hexagonal shield used by both the Cavalry and Auxiliary units.  The legionary generally had a curved rectangular shield during Rome's peak, allowing for better protection. The shield umbo for that shield was also much larger and had a square shape for attachment. There is evidence that Legionaries and Auxiliaries alike had flat oval shields especially in the later empire when there was far less distinction between the two units. So this umbo could have been used by both a Legionary and an Auxiliary within the Roman army. (1)(2)

-painting by M. Daniels


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Reverse view

Side view

Edge view

Museum shield boss example  approximately 20cm wide



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(1) References to similar items: FEUGERE, Michel; Weapons of the Romans, page 88-93 2002

(2) References to similar items: STEPHENSON, I.P; Roman Military Equipment "The Later Empire", page 15-24 2001.

**Note on background. Close up view of the wall of the Colosseum of Pula, Croatia. Picture taken 2014