The Beginning of Heraldry

Heraldry beginnings
Heraldry finds its origins in pictorial devices which were used as individual or tribal marks of identification by ancient civilizations. These family devices were more like badges than coats of arms and their assumption at a certain stage of civilization became necessary because people were very much alike, and without some well-known mark tattooed on their skin or carried on the person in some prominent way, friends and foes in large groups were indistinguishable. Early tribal or totem devices were almost always the figure of some living creature, and they were placed wherever was practical, marked on the skin, worked into clothing, painted on tents, shields and other belongings. Whenever an animal was chosen as a tribal mark, the animal was usually sacred to all tribal members, and looked upon as a benevolent and powerful ally at all times, especially in times of war. Among the North American Indians, where large tribes were powerful and fought frequently, the system of totem marks was at one time highly developed.

Shields have always been the most practical articles of war upon which to carry ornamental devices. The surface of a shield of any shape was conducive decoration, due to the the bars, bands, and studs with which it was often built. These suggested a symmetrical arrangement. When geometrical ornamentation, which was probably the earliest marks of identification, gradually became obsolete or nearly so, then animal forms were largely used, and when true heraldry came into being, it showed the influence of both of these types of symbolism, animate and inanimate. With the advent of modern heraldry at the beginning of the second millennium we can see both of these styles evolve together with most coat of arms exhibiting a combination of animate and inanimate objects. 
Heraldry shields

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