I would like to make use of your extensive knowledge to tell me more about a shield that I acquired about 8 years ago and is still a mystery to me. What I think it is: a muslin shield with "ghost dance movement" related symbols, trade cloth and sinew on a wooden loop. The shield is 48 cm/18.9 inch diameter at the widest point. Any information is welcome.
Hello Ron, welcome to the forum. While I can't confirm authenticity of the piece, it looks like a symbolic shield to me. So not used in battle. Plains region, potentially late 1800s or early 1900s, yet it could also be a reproduction. Where did you get it? The symbols aren't "ghost dance" related perse, as the moon, morning star, dragonfly and swallow were used as powerful symbols since well before Euro-American contact. The dragonfly and the swallow were especially revered by warriors due to their quickness, their power to confuse the enemy with their erratic movements and to dodge bullets and arrows. Carlo
Thank you so much for your reply and welcoming me to the forum. I got it of Ebay, so not much provenance over there. To confirm it's authenticity I probably have to go to a museum. I will keep on searching, although it seems though to find information on muslin shields. Apologies for the wrong choice of words, I am aware of the much longer history of these symbols. Thanks again and have a nice day.
Best chance to find out how old it is, is to have a dyestuff analysis done on the red cloth. (thin layer chromatography will do) However, that may not be cheap and concidering you have no provenance and got it on E-bay, chances are it's not an original.
It's not Muslin, it is clearly hide, the weight and feel of it can tell a lot (commercially tanned hide is much heavier than braintanned hide) Typologically it fits with the Cheyenne, specialist is Imre Nagi from Hungaria, to learn more look for his article on Typology of cheyenne shields.