FP-1 miniature shield

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Classification: miniature shield
Material: bronze
Size: 9.9 cm x 4.7 cm x 0.4 mm
Condition: incomplete, damaged
Date: probably 5th century
Date derived from: typology, cultural context

Site: Biberwier (Tirol, Austria)
Field name: Fern pass
Archaeological context: none
Coordinates (approx.): 47° 21' 12.83" N, 10° 50' 47.59" E
Find date: around 2000
Find circumstances: private collector
Current location: Abteilung Ur- und Frühgeschichte Universität Innsbruck (repository)
Inventory Nr.: none

Inscription: FP-1 (]???(?)ṇe spirkuva)


First published in Kirchmayr & Schumacher 2019: 257–263. Examined by Stefan Schumacher in September 2018.

Images in Kirchmayr & Schumacher 2019: 259, Abb. 2 and 260, Abb. 3 (photos and drawings).

The object was found around the turn of the century by a private collector, Robert Klotz, close to the course of the Via Claudia where it crossed the summit of the Fern pass, at about 1270 m a.s.l, somewhat to the south-east of the lower summit of the modern crossing. Further objects found by Mr Klotz include three fibulae of different age (in the same general area as the shield) and numerous Roman coins from the course of the Via Claudia between the pass summit and Biberwier – see Kirchmayr (pp. 261f. with drawings of two fibulae Abb. 6.1–2) for details and further finds from the Fern pass. As none of the other finds are sure to be immediately associated with the miniature shield, the tentative dating is based on comparison with other such shields from the Fritzens-Sanzeno area (pp. 258–260, 263).

The remains of the object, two roughly equally sized fragments, are distorted and damaged, but sufficient to allow the reconstruction of a miniature shield of originally about 10.5 x 6 cm, rectangular with rounded corners. The chased plaque features the indication of a buckle, two embossed oval rings around the latter, and a small hole (in fact two, one neater than the other and likely a replacement) at one short side for attaching the shield to a vertical structure. The entire surface is covered in a burnt layer. (A detailed description and further considerations in Kirchmayr, pp. 257f.)

Miniature shields being interpreted as votive gifts, the finding of an inscribed specimen on the Fern pass might be taken to indicate the existence of a sanctuary at the summit of the old crossing (followed by the Via Claudia), whose remains may have been ultimately destroyed by the building of a power pole on the very summit (Kirchmayr, p. 263). Some connection of the finds with votive practices related to the crossing of the pass must certainly be assumed.


Kirchmayr & Schumacher 2019 Margarethe Kirchmayr, Stefan Schumacher, "Ein Miniaturschild mit rätischer Inschrift vom Fernpass", in: Simon Hye, Ulrike Töchterle (eds), UPIKU:TAUKE. Festschrift für Gerhard Tomedi zum 65. Geburtstag [= Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäologie 339], Bonn: 2019, 257–268.