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Rawhide Shield
early 1800s

The Spanish-American rodela
A double-headed eagle painted in indigo, red, and white adorns this rawhide shield from the American Southwest in the early 1800s. Known as a "rodela," the shield was probably made by a "mestizo" (mixed Spanish-Native American) artisan, and used by soldiers protecting forts from Indian attacks in northern Mexico. Worn on the forearm in battle, rawhide shields were almost impervious to lances and arrows, but not to Hispanic firearms that were captured by Native Americans or obtained through illegal trading. The two-headed eagle on this shield was the emblem of the Hapsburg or Holy Roman Empire that included Spain at the time. Other shields bore the Spanish coat of arms.

23" (58.3 cm) in diameter
layers of bull hide laced together with thongs
Collected by Captain John G. Bourke in 1891 from Isleta pueblo, 25 miles south of Albuquerque, NM.
Web display only

Learn more!
· Excerpts of 1964 report from curator, Spanish Colonial Department, Museum of New Mexico
· Excerpt from 1960 report on Western material at the Smithsonian
· Excerpt of 1966 conservation report

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