Medieval Irish Shields And European Shield Types


The oldest Irish term for a set of weapons is gaisce, a compound of two separate words: ga “spear” and sciath “shield”. This reflects the fact that in Iron Age and Early Medieval Ireland a warrior’s basic military equipment consisted of a shield for defence and a spear for offence. Experienced fighters probably supplemented this duo with a second spear, for medium-range throwing or close-quarters combat, while some may have also carried items like small stabbing-knives, leather slings with pebble shots, or even wooden clubs. It has long been assumed that only the very wealthy made use of swords, initially very short thrust-and-cut weapons that were eventually displaced by lengthier swords under the influence of even longer Continental and then Scandinavian examples, a limitation which was thought to have lasted into the Middle Ages. However that presumption has latterly been called into question and it may be that swords were…

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