Central Australian shields were made from a light soft wood mostly oval shaped and used to deflect spears or blows from boomerangs in conflict situations. Added strength was given by the handles being part of the structure and cut out of the reverse side. The grooves or fluting is typical of the treatment of the outer surface of shields in the central desert regions, and are classically painted with designs representing the totemic ancestors. The shields are also used in revealing these details of the ancestors to young men in ceremony and displayed during the public stages of their initiation.

This shield is known as alkwerte in the Arrernte language. It is made from tyweretye, the batswing coral or bean tree (Erythrina verspertilio).

Physical Description

An oval shield made from a single piece of softwood (red bean tree) painted with natural pigments. The entire surface has longitudinal fluting of parallel lines and is coated with red ochre. The concave outer surface is almost entirely decorated with white dots except for circular shapes that expose the red ochre. It is also decorated with small solid black circles. The handle is cut out of the reverse side.

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