Archive of Transactions

Saxon handled combs from London

Ian Riddler

Fourteen handled combs have been recovered from the London area. Seven of these – in the collections of the British Museum and the Museum of London – are illustrated and described in detail, and arranged in a chronological sequence extending from the Middle Saxon period (c 8th-9th century AD) to the Late Saxon (10th century). They exhibit a wide range of decorative schemes, and appear to demonstrate a transition from the use of bone as well as antler in earlier times to the exclusive use of antler in the later period.

It has generally been assumed that combs of this type are Frisian, their presence indicating trade, exchange, or the presence of Frisians themselves. Recent research, however, has identified nearly a hundred from Anglo-Saxon sites, together with evidence for manufacture. This suggests that they were all produced in England, and that in fact they should be regarded as one of the most representative forms of Middle-Late Saxon comb.

[Transactions 41 (1990), pp 9 – 20; abstract by Francis Grew, 02-Jan-1998]

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