Combs, Contact and Chronology: Reconsidering Hair Combs in Early-Historic and Viking-Age Atlantic Scotland

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Analysis of an important collection of bone/antler hair combs from Atlantic Scotland has illuminated the chronology of early-medieval Scandinavian settlement in the region. Application of a new typology, identification of variations in manufacturing practice and analysis of spatial patterning throw light on the development of combs traditionally seen as characteristic of early-historic Atlantic Scotland. The application of new techniques of raw material analysis demonstrates the probable use of reindeer antler in combs of ‘native’ style. However, none of these combs is from contexts that can confidently be dated to the 8th century or earlier, and the pattern is indicative of Norse-native coexistence (peaceful or otherwise)in the 9th century, but not before. The comb evidence demonstrates a Scandinavian presence throughout Atlantic Scotland from early in the Viking Age, but also highlights the importance of contact with Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages32
JournalMedieval Archaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009

Bibliographical note

© Society for Medieval Archaeology 2009. Reproduced in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.

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