The Prince and the Plunder

A book on how Britain took one boy and piles of treasures from Ethiopia

Shield with bullet hole *

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: Shield with bullet hole, linked to Magdala but wrong date

Where: Pitt Rivers Museum, South Parks Rd, Oxford, OX1 3PP

The accession entry says it belonged to a soldier “killed at the action of ?ARACEE before MAGDALA †, 1860, one of the first 20 recipients of a Snider bullet.”

ARACEE probably refers to Aroge, the decisive battle of the Magdala campaign. The snider bullet probably refers to the snider rifles used for the first time by the British forces on the expedition.

But … The Battle of Aroge took place in 1868 not 1860. This could be a simple mistake in the labeling. However another Pitt Rivers label links the shield to other fighting (see below). So it is possible this shield is from another battle and the Magdala account was added later through confusion or to add interest.

The catalogue entry has three pictures and reads:

“Convex circular hide shield with slightly upturned rim. Decorated with five round silver bosses with raised centres and punched decoration, surrounded by rectangular and flower-shaped silver plaques, all attached with silver-headed rivets.

“There is a bullet hole in the bottom right section of the shield.”

Accession Book Entry – JOHN BUSBY, Esq. … Oxford. – Shield, circular of hide, with (silver) metal strips. The former owner was killed at the action of ?ARACEE before MAGDALA †, 1860, one of the first 20 recipients of a Snider bullet. Brought to England by Lt.-Col. Yorke, who was present at the action.

Display history: PRM display label (1991 – 1995) – AFRICA, ETHIOPIA. Circular hide shield with silver strip decoration. It was used in action in Lij Kassa’s (also known as Theodore II) internal wars in Northern Ethiopia around the capital, Magdala. The original owner of the shield was killed during a battle in 1860. Shields continued to be made in Ethiopia even after the arrival of firearms. The shield was brought to England by Lt. Col. Yorke who was present at the action. Donated by J. Busby. 1940.5.100 [LM 21/03/2007]


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