Shield, 19th–early 20th century
Western Australia (?)
Wood, paint; H. 29 in. (73.7 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.1610)
Carved from softwood and coated with red ocher, this shield was likely created by an Aboriginal artist from the desert regions of central or western Australia. Shields among desert peoples were both practical implements, used for defense against weapons thrown or wielded by an opponent, and important trade items. Often exchanged along a complex system on inland trade routes, some shields were ultimately used by individuals living hundreds of miles from the place where they were made. The front surface of the present shield is covered with an ornate composition of engraved concentric diamond- and zigzag-shaped motifs, suggesting that it was created, or at least decorated, in Western Australia.