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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Fri 13 May, 2011 6:08 pm    Post subject: Target/Targe .... Help         Reply with quote

Hi everyone, hopefuly somebody here might be able to help me out. For some time now I've been trying to trace the development of the Scottish highlanders targe, and it has been proving difficult.

I know that in the 14th century highlanders used heater type shields, these are shown in the hands of many of the warrior grave slabs in the west highlands, they are also seen in the hands of light infantrymen in the town charter of Carlisle, dating to 1316. Whereas the earliest targe I know of is the O'Donovan targe from Ireland, dating to the mid 16th century. So far I have not been able to find out what shields were used in the gap between these two periods, and I'm hoping that some information about English targets might fill in these gaps.

To find out if my thinking about the highland targe developing from the English target is correct, I'll need to know what period of time were they in use in England from, how common were they, what type of troops used them, were they used in Ireland, are there any still surviving (of the wooden type not steel)?

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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Fri 13 May, 2011 8:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The round target, while never the most popular type of shield, never entirely fell from use. Round shields are depicted in the Maciejowski Bible, the Louis de Bruges copy of Froissart's Chronicles and dozens of other manuscripts and pieces of art from the 9th through the 15th century. These shields are basically just enlarged bucklers. It is unclear when, how and why a transition was made from a center-grip within the boss to the later double arm-strap, but the latter feature seems to be the only thing that distinguishes the later Scottish targe from its long-lived ancestor. This is all off the top of my head, if you want more references, I can find some for you.
As to what types of shields would have found use in Scotland between 1316 and 1550, they would have mostly followed continental fashions; a review of knightly effigies would be a good place to start. Almost every Scottish effigy I remember seeing showed a typical heater shield.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 3:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Scott, and thanks for the reply. I was aware of the round shields used in the maciejowski bible, and I've previously asked questions about them. IIRC the consensus was that these were supposed to represent shields from the muslim world, the reason being that "good guys" were represented by Europeans, and the "badies" were given foreign or slightly outdated pieces equipment to differenciate the two groups, but I'm not I agree with this theory. Scott, I would love to see what you can find from those other sources you mentioned, especially any from the 15th century. As I said above I've seen west highland grave slabs from the 14th century with heater shields, but none from the 15th or 16th, so I'm not sure if it continued to be used after the 14th. What I'm most interested in finding out is when did round shields start to be strapted directly to the arm, when did this trend reach Britain and Ireland, and when did it replace the heater?
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 6:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen, that is a tough one. I don't think it is very likely that you will find a definitive answer. I have obsessively researched this very question. All we can really say is that sometime between the mid-15th and mid-16th century the enlarged buckler shield began to be fitted with two straps instead of a center-grip, and that this developement seems to have been restricted to outlying Gaelic areas, ie Scotland and Ireland. Aside from this change and some superficial decorative differences, the shield itself did not change much from the 1st to the 18th century. I have seen a much earlier round shield with double straps both held in the hand. I will look real quick and find out where I saw that for you.
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 7:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It was a 11th-12th century relief at Abteikirche von Andlau at ElsaB. ( used a capital B for 'eszett' because I don't know how to do German letters on the computer.) The relief depicts two warriors fighting. You can see the inside of one warriors shield. It is a typical medium-sized Viking style round shield with two straps replacing the solid grip. I am absolutely stupid when it comes to computers, otherwise I would give you a link. The page is titled "Schutzurustung zur zeit der Slchacht von Hastings", "Kontakt: info@reenactment.de" For the 15th century examples, I am sure most of the examples I saw were in the Louis de Bruges copy of Froissarts Chronicles and one or two in those famous Swiss chronicles the name of which escapes me. ARMA's art talk is a good place to look around for pics. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 9:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Scott, and thanks for the sources. I found the one with the two german warriors with round shields and I'm looking through google images to try and find shields in Froissart chronicles, if anyone else here has anything else to contribute I'd be glad to see it, thanks.
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Kevin P Molloy




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 1:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Target/Targe .... Help         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
Hi everyone, hopefuly somebody here might be able to help me out. For some time now I've been trying to trace the development of the Scottish highlanders targe, and it has been proving difficult.

I know that in the 14th century highlanders used heater type shields, these are shown in the hands of many of the warrior grave slabs in the west highlands, they are also seen in the hands of light infantrymen in the town charter of Carlisle, dating to 1316. Whereas the earliest targe I know of is the O'Donovan targe from Ireland, dating to the mid 16th century. So far I have not been able to find out what shields were used in the gap between these two periods, and I'm hoping that some information about English targets might fill in these gaps.

To find out if my thinking about the highland targe developing from the English target is correct, I'll need to know what period of time were they in use in England from, how common were they, what type of troops used them, were they used in Ireland, are there any still surviving (of the wooden type not steel)?


Stephen,
In my research I seem to remember that as far back as the viking period the irish were using round shields similar to the vikings but smaller diameter. Since the highlands and isles were intertwined with viking influence wouldn't the more logical conclusion be that the targe would have been a natural progression from that? I see no need for any english influence.

I also don't see a problem with both heater and round targes being used at the same time between the 14th and 16th century with an eventual predominance of the targe with the heater going out of favor. IMHO

Kevin Patrick Molloy
"The Prince of Firceall of the Ancient Sword is O'Molloy of the Freeborn Name"... O'Dugain(d.1372AD)
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Keep in mind that the use of the adoptation of the enarmed round shield was not spesific to Scotland. Rather, it is their continued use that makes them special.

Rotella style shields where the adopted all over europe in the early Renaisance. The reason appears to have been inspiration from antique shields. Even in the 18th c, it is sometimes called "The roman target".

Thus, it is quite likely that the target was brought home by Scottish mercenaries in the 16th c, along with the two handed sword.

On the other hand, a small round shield is easy to carry around, and conveniet for the small scale raiding and skirmishing of the highland clans.Similar shields are used by beduins and other tribal peoples.
(In this context, it is quite interesting that the vikings, raiders supreme, carried equipment designed for the shieldwall.)

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 6:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rotellas are convex, not flat, right? And usually steel or maybe hardened leather instead of wood? Unless I am mistaken, it is an entirely different animal to the flat wooden shields that are the ancestors of the Targe. While it makes sense that the enarme strap idea could have come from rotellas, it could have just as easily been adopted from the heater shield.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 6:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quite possibly. But putting straps on a small round shield does not really make sense unless it has developed from something else.
Keep in mind that the traditional heater shield had fallen from common use centuries ago, and rottella swordsmen reprecented something of a "relaunch" of dedicated shield infantry after 200 years of two handed polearm supremacy. And, with this beeing the renaisance, the inspiration for inovation was the golden age of antiquity, not the dark and crude middle ages.
Knowledge of the past is not automatic, and it only takes a single generation for knowledge to be lost.

From my experience with shields (10 years of reenactment fighting with bucklers, round shields and heaters), the target seems to be, with all posible respect, a inferior shield design compared to a larger straped shield, or a central gripped round shield of the same size. Strapped shields give good edge controll and lend themselves well to a tight guard. The targe, however, is to small to provide a good pasive defence, and would give better cover if held in a central grip.

Still, it is a lot better than no shield at all. Thus I find it plausible that they gained popularity over the single sword, but I do not think that they would be a result of natural selection in competition with other designs.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 7:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott, not all rotelle were convex, and their were indeed wooden examples, most of which I believe are flat. In fact there was a thread here a while back, which had a very handsome example from 15th century Milan.

Kevin, I used to think the same as you, that Scottish targes were simply a development from the earlier round shields used by the Irish and highland Scots, but the more I thought about it the more I tend to agree with Elling and think that they were a continental or English influence. Thats why I asked these questions, I'm looking to find out more about the rotella/rodela/target (same thing, different name).

However, I do agree that the early targe was probably used alongside the heater at some stage. For example, Irish soldiers fighting in France during the siege of Rouen (1418, I think) were said to be armed with wooden targets, and the heater was also still in use at this time, though I'm not sure if the gaelic Irish and Scots continued to use it until then, as the only west highland grave slabs that I've seen that have heaters date to the 14th century, although some Anglo Irish tomb effigies from the 15th century do have them. OTOH what about the rotella/rodela/target, does anybody know of any 14th century examples?

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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 10:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Stephen, I did not know that.
Elling, I agree with you about the effaciousness of small shields with enarmes. It raises the questions, how and why were they used. What could be the possible advantages of the design. Hellenistic shields with similar characteristics were used with the sarissa. Were rotellas only used with the sword? Could adoption/developement of the highland targe be related to the use of pike formations?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 2:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You are probably better off not using the terms targe/target to describe these shields. Best to stick with rotelle (rodella). "Target" literally means "little targe". You get all sorts of problems trying to call the shield in question a "targe" since, by definition, it has to be larger than a "target".
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 5:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott; Similar small flat shields where also used by greek and byzantine missile troops, who used them with the hand passed all the way through the front loop so that they could se a bow or sarissa.
A scottish highlander could plausibly use a bow or firearm while wearing the shield in this way, but I do not know if there are sources for this.
Highlanders where alfter all famous for carrying every weapon they could get their hands on into battle.

My guess is that the targe is a "home made" replication of rotella shields, made smaller and flat for ease of carry and manefacture.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 10:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've found two threads over at SwordForum which might be relivant to our discussion

the first

http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.p...e-Maccolla

and the second

http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.p...sh%20Targe

In the first link there are quotes from 15th century Scottish parlenentry acts, now I'm assuming that these acts where aimed at lowlanders as well as highlanders so perhaps they were used with pikes. So maybe targes were first used in the lowlands and then were adopted in the highlands.

The second link has some good info about similar shields used elsewhere in Europe.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Tue 17 May, 2011 9:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you look at the second post of this thread http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=9575 you will see a round shield strapped to a knights upper arm. Judging by the armour I would say that this is 14th century, does anybody know exactly when this piece of art dates?
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Tue 17 May, 2011 10:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We know what Scottish targes looked like in the 17th and 18th century, and we have references that show that they were used at least as early as the 15th, so what did these look like? Well I doubt we'll be able to answer this question with any great certainty, but we can hypothesize. It does beg the question, when did Scottish shields adopt their characterist decoration, namely celtic style tooled leather faces, and tack patterns? In Osprey's Pictish Warrior AD 297 - 841 there are images of warriors armed with square bucklers, decorated with celtic designs. Now these could be painted on or tooled leather, but if they are in fact tooled then this could mean that this tradition carried on in Scotland right through to the late middle ages and beyond. So what about the tacks, where did they come from? Well I've seen images of what are being called "welsh bucklers" dating to the 15th and 16th centuries, and some of these also have hundreds of tacks placed in circles radiating from the boss (which is often pointed, perhap a forerunner to the spike on later targes). The reason for these tacks is that some of these bucklers were constructed of layers of hardened leather which the tacks helped to hold together, an example of which can be seen at the bottom of this thread http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.p...r-question So perhaps the tooling was a native tradition, while the tacks were an imported idea, what do the rest of you think of this?
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Thu 19 May, 2011 9:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen, the MS pic on the other thread is dated 1335. Interlace patterns are found in 15th century German manuscripts and occasionally were tooled on leatherwork, so it is not purely a celtic thing. I will see what I can dig up on the subject of tooled leather decoration and get back to you.
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Thu 19 May, 2011 9:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was wrong, the "celtic"-looking interlace patterns I was thinking of were found in Paul Hector's De arte athletica, early 16th century.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Mon 23 May, 2011 7:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scottish acts of parliament in 1456 and 1481 state that targes were to be constructed of either wood OR leather, and in 1471 just leather is mentioned. Could this be a reference to a hardened leather shield, perhaps similar to the Spanish adarga. Another possible reference to leather shields used by the Gaels is a quote from Edmund Spenser's 1597 "A view to the present state of Ireland" the quote "round leather targets coloured after the Spanish fashion", as these leather shield are "coloured" after the Spanish fashion, so perhaps they were constructed like them also, from layers of leather or rawhide, sewn and glued together. Incidentally, Spanish and Moorish light cavalry seem to have practiced a very similar style of warfare to Irish hobelars.

I've heard conflicting stories about the origin of the word targe, some saying that it comes from the above mentioned adarga, others from targa, a germanic word for shield, and others which I can't remember off the top of my head. If targe did in fact come from adarga then this might support the idea of the Irish and Scottish using leather shields. Well what do the rest of you guys think?

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