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Shields vary greatly in size, ranging from large panels that protect the user's entire body to small models (such as the buckler) that were intended for hand-to-hand-combat use. Shields also vary a great deal in thickness; whereas some shields were made of relatively deep, absorbent, wooden planking to protect soldiers from the impact of spears and crossbow bolts, others were thinner and lighter and designed mainly for deflecting blade strikes.
In prehistory and during the era of the earliest civilizations, shields were made of wood, animal hide, woven reeds or wicker. In classical antiquity, the Migration Period and the Middle Ages, they were normally constructed of poplar, lime or another split-resistant timber—covered in some instances with leather and/or reinforced with a metal boss, rim or banding—and carried by foot soldiers, knights and cavalry.
Shape wise, depending on time and place, shields could be round, oval, square, rectangular, triangular or scalloped. Sometimes they took on the form of kites, flatirons or figures-of-eight, or had rounded tops on a rectangular base with perhaps an eyehole inserted. The shield was held by a central grip or by straps which went over or around the user's arm
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