LUKYASHKO S.I. About the Scythian Shields


Sergey I. Lukyashko

Doctor of Sciences (History), Head of the Laboratory of Archaeological Research,


Chekhova St., 41, 344006 Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation

sciphica@ssc-ras. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Abstract. Shields played major role in the armament system of the Scythians. Made from organic materials, they are poorly traced on the materials of archaeological excavations. Besides, scaly surface of shields was often perceived in practice as the remnants of the scaly armor. E. V. Chernenko was able to discern the difference between shields’ scaly plates and armor scales. The top edge of the scales was bent inwards, and shield plates had a wire fixation. These observations let significantly increase the number of shields, found in the burial complexes of the Scythians. The comparison of archaeological materials and the images of Scythian warriors allow distinguishing the main forms of Scythian shields. All shields are divided into fencing shields and cover shields. The fencing shields include round wooden shields, reinforced with bronze sheet, and round moon-shaped shields with a notch at the top, with a metal scaly surface. They came to the Scythians under the Greek influence and are known in the monuments of the 4th century BC. Oval shields with scaly surface (back cover shields) were used by the Scythian cavalry. They protected the rider in case of frontal attack, and moved back in case of maneuver or closein fighting. Scythian battle tactics were based on rapid approaching the enemy and throwing spears and further rapid withdrawal. Spears stuck in the shields of enemies, forcing them to drop the shields, uncover, and in this stage of the battle the archers attacked the disorganized ranks of the enemy. That was followed by the stage of close fight. Oval form of a wooden shield with leather covering was used by the Scythian infantry and spearmen. Rectangular shields, including wooden shields and the shields pleached from rods, represented a special category. The top of such shield was made of wood, and a pleached pad on leather basis was attached to it. This shield could be a reliable protection from arrows, but it could not protect against javelins. Rectangular wooden shields are allocated into a separate group. The lower edge of this shield was made oval. Wooden base of the shield had a thickness of 1 cm, and it was covered with cowhide. The shields covered with the leather of mountain goats, called Tarand in ancient sources, were of special value. The shield was held by means of two belt loops. One had passed through the forearm, and the other was held by the left hand. There are grounds to assume the presence of a pair of metal brackets on the back side of the shield used for holding the shield. The Scythians did not have centralized production of shields. This fact explains the diversity of forms.

Key words: Scythian culture, shields, shapes, organization, material, military art.

Citation. Lukyashko S.I. About the Scythian Shields. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Serija 4, Istorija. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnoshenija [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2017, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 6-16 (in Russian). DOI:

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About the Scythian Shields by Lukyashko S.I. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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