Part of shackle set. See also 1986.008.0763b
Shackles from the slave ship Henrietta Marie
were used to restrain captive Africans by holding two people together. These wrought-iron devices are of a type known as “bilboes,” and their design is one that went virtually unchanged from ca. 1550 to 1850. Two U-shaped shackles fit over the ankles or wrists of the captives, too tightly to slip hands or feet through. Smaller loops at each shackle terminus slid over a long bolt. The bolt had a larger diameter head forged onto one end and a slot pierced into the other. The large head served as a stop to keep the loops from sliding over one end, and the same effect was achieved at the other by hammering an iron wedge tightly into the slot, locking the shackles, and thus the prisoners, to the bolt and to each other.