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Comb

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    8th - 9th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved bone with bronze rivets

  • Museum number:

    809-1877

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an Anglo-Saxon comb probably made in the 8th - 9th century. This comb is in bone with a single row of teeth, the top arched and terminating in recurved dragon heads. On each side are pierced bone plates incised with circles and fastened together with copper pins.
The comb was found during the excavations for the Metropolitan Railway Extension to Aldgate in 1876, London.
Combs of this general type were ubiquitous troughout Europe, from Southern France to Scandinavia, from the Late Roman period to the 19th century. The design and decorative motifs varied remarkably little over a millennium, with only minor changes being introduced and stylistic innovations remaining infrequent.

Physical description

A composite comb made of bone with fine teeth, the top arched and terminating in curved dragon heads. Fastened together by copper pins. It is made of three sections: the teeth and zoomorphic terminals are carved from one section of bone and the two side plates are riveted to it. The sides and top are decorated with ring-and-dot ornament, alternating with the rivets on the curving back of the comb. On each side are three t-shaped recesses, two inverted, which must once have been filled with another material, perhaps bronze or coloured paste.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

8th - 9th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved bone with bronze rivets

Dimensions

Height: 4.1 cm, Width: 6.7 cm

Object history note

Found during the excavations for the Metropolitan Railway Extension to Aldgate in 1876, London. Purchased from G. Wallis, London. 'who bought it from a navvy' (Museum records) in 1877 (10s).

Historical context note

Combs of this general type were ubiquitous troughout Europe, from Southern France to Scandinavia, from the Late Roman period to the 19th century. The design and decorative motifs varied remarkably little over a millennium, with only minor changes being introduced and stylistic innovations remaining infrequent. The later examples, especially those in Norway, are conspicuously retardataire, following models made further south many hundred years earlier. The distinctive feature of the T-shaped recesses on the side panels seen here perhaps sets the present comb apart from the earliest examples and was copied in some alter Norwegian combs, so a date in the decades before the Viking incursions in England, or shortly afterwards, seems plausible.

Descriptive line

Comb, bone, with bronze rivets, Anglo-Saxon, probably 9th - 10th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1877, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 69
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part I, p. 84
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 146, 7, cat. no. 34

Production Note

probably 8th - 9th century

Materials

Bone; Bronze

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Dragons; Ornament

Categories

Archaeology; Accessories; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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