Coat of arms
The shield of arms was a visual method of identifying an individual and that could be passed down a family line and became widely accepted in the late 13th century. Heraldry was concerned with the recording and description of these identifying marks.
Early shields had very simple designs but later designs could become rather complex. Later designs include a number of fantastical animals such as the yale, and caretyne, which were not used prior to the 20th and 16th century respectively.
Describing the Shield
Blazoning is the term used to decribe a shield of arms. This is a systematic method of describing a shield of arms.