Here is a comprehensive listing of the various types of shields that were used during the medieval period. Many of these were carried by knights but they were not just part of the armament of mounted knights. Some types were used by infantry and ground troops.
The History of the Medieval Shield
Shields, as in any type of armor or weapon, developed and changed over the centuries. They also changed in shape and size. They were typically not larger than three feet in diameter and made of wooden planks that were laid next to each other. The surface of the shield was often covered with leather and painted. As iron and metal working skills came into play a hole was often cut in the center of the shield and a metal boss was placed over it.
Very early shields: Around the seventh century BC the greeks made and used a circular shield called a hoplon. These hoplon shields were made of wood and bronze and they were derived from even earlier shields made totally of bronze. The picture at left is of a real Hoplite shield in a museum in Greece. I took this picture while on a trip there. The Plaque reads: Bronze Spartan Shield - loot from the Battle of Pylos 425 B.C.
Next comes the Roman Scutum Shield
A Roman Scutum This type of shield was in use by the Roman Republic into the 3rd century. It was rectangular in shape and usually measured around two and a half feet wide by five feet tall. And it was usually slightly cylindrical in shape. It was made of three layers of wooden strips and these strips were oriented differently for strength. First one layer was laid horizontal then the second layer was laid vertical and the final layer was laid horizontal. This changing direction of the wood made it very strong. It was then covered with strips of leather. Often times there was a shield boss in the center.
The Kite Shield was the next big development in shields and it saw a lot of use from the 11th century to the beginning of the 13th century. (Pictured: VIKING KITE SHIELD)
From the beginning of the 13th century the Kite Shield changed; particularly the shape along the top of the shield flattened out into what we tend to think of as the shield shape. This is typically a coat of arms kind of shield. The next two pictures give you an idea of this progression from rounded to flat top.
Types of Shields
Parts of Shields
Make a Cardboard Shield