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Yvain 12th October 2020 06:15 PM

Some observations regarding the "ahrer" Tuareg shield
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Hi everyone,

Here is some observations regarding the “ahrer”, the rawhide shield of the Tuareg. Some days ago, one went up for auction in my country; sadly, the bids went way too high for me (and believe me, I tried …), but I previously had the good idea to request more pictures from the auction house, from which I learned some interesting things.

Indeed, most pictures of ahrer that can be found online only show the front face, with almost no rear or detail shots available, I thus decided to share them here, as I think some might find it interesting too.

One of the characteristics of the ahrer is the reinforcement on its edge, frequently dyed black. Until now, I had no idea of how this reinforcement was attached to the shield, but, by zooming on some of the pictures, we can notice that it is in fact the edge of the shield itself that is rolled and maintained at regular intervals with small rawhide or leather laces to form that reinforcement !

The 5 rivets on the front face of the shield correspond to 4 attachment points for the handle. The handle itself seems to be made of multiple layers of leather (not really sure though), we can also see some torn textile that seems to be padded behind the handle (to protect the hand from shocks ?), as well as a metallic plate made out of 2 fitted parts; this plate shows 3 riveted “chains” of some sort: at 2 opposite angles some “S” shaped links, and at the third one a ring. This could be some kind of “internal umbo”, to protect the user’s hand, but what surprises me is that this plate seems to be free and not attached to the rest of the shield. It could thus also be a later addition, and we will need to get more rear views of other ahrer to have a clear answer to that question. In the same way, I’m not sure of the use of the rope attached to the handle of the shield (maybe some kind of “guige” to carry the shield on foot when not in use ? I honestly have no good answer to this, and will have to dig into the Quai Branly archives for period pictures). However, I’m pretty confident about the use of the ring riveted to the fifth attachment point towards the top of the shield, and I think it was most likely used to hang the ahrer to the saddle when on the move, as can be seen on the old postcard also attached to this post.

We can also note 4 traces of fights, that tend to prove that this shield was indeed used in combat. 3 of them go through the shield and have been repaired with stitching (most likely to prevent them from widening), one of them is only superficial (near the central pattern). Speaking of the central ornamental pattern, it seems to have been made by incisions in the hide.

Feel free to ask any questions and to add what you know regarding those fascinating shields !

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