Shield (parrying)

Unknown maker, Mount Langi Ghiran, Victoria, Australia1870 - 1888

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria
Carlton, Australia

This is a parrying shield. The face of the shield is divided by four wide, wavy ochred bands. The other sections of the shield are carved with wavy, incised lines and are filled in with white pipe clay. The Ngutuwul Balug clan (mountain people) of the Djab Wurrung tribe occupied the area around Mount Langi Ghiran. The name Langi Ghiran is from the Djab Wurrung language meaning 'home of the black cockatoo'. This type of shield is narrow and is carved out of one piece of solid wood, including the handle. They were used to deflect spears, and in close combat to parry blows from wooden clubs. They were made from ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) as the preferred wood but mainly from box (Eucalyptus leucoxylon). Other types of wood that would be used were hard woods such as gum and peppermint. Wattle tree was not often used to make weapons. Shields like this are evidence of the rich cultural diversity of the Aboriginal peoples of south-eastern Australia. Like other Aboriginal art forms from the region the designs were also important in identifying individuals and clans in combat. These shields are known by Aboriginal names such as Mulga, Murgon, Marr-aga and Kullak. The tools used to build and engrave shields were made from stone and sharp animal teeth such as those of marsupials. Designs were carved and then painted onto the shield face with sticks, echidna quill or hair brushes, or with fingers.The main natural pigments traditionally used by Aboriginal people were charcoal (black), pipe clay (white) and ochres (pale yellow to dark reddish-brown). Red ochre was significant and was an important trade commodity. The paint was made by grinding the substance with a stone implement into powder and then combining it with a liquid. The history of 'ownership' of such objects between leaving the possession of Aboriginal people and becoming part of Museum Victoria collections is diverse and often obscure. Early collectors acquired objects such as these because it was believed that Aboriginal people were 'a dying race'. This belief and the growing interest in ethnography created a roaring trade in Aboriginal objects from the early 19th century onwards. Shields from Victoria are a feature in Bunjilaka at Melbourne Museum.


  • Title: Shield (parrying)
  • Creator: Unknown maker, Mount Langi Ghiran, Victoria, Australia
  • Creator Nationality: Indigenous Australian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Birth Place: Mount Langi Ghiran, Victoria, Australia
  • Date Created: 1870 - 1888
  • Physical Dimensions: w100 x h935 x d95 mm
  • Type: Object
  • Rights: Source: Museum Victoria. Indigenous or Cultural Rights Apply, Copyright Museum Victoria: Source: Museum Victoria / Maker: unknown / Photographer: Jonathon Augier. Indigenous or Cultural Rights apply
  • Medium: Natural pigments on wood (Acacia melanoxylon)
  • Subject: Aboriginal peoples (Australians), Aboriginal art, shields (weapons)

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