Bone and antler objects

  1. Antler handled comb, fragmentary but virtually complete. Decorated with incised lines on both sides. A longitudinal slot is cut into the tine from the tip end; the slot occupies approximately half the length of the tine, the remainder acts as the handle. The handle is decorated with a band of at least four vertical grooves at the end, with a panel of wavy zigzag decoration flanked by bands of four vertical grooves about half-way along its length. The decoration on each side of the comb then varies. One side has a single band of four vertical grooves at the point at which the tooth plate starts, and then appears to be plain. The second side has three wavy zigzags alternating with four bands each of four grooves and then two bands each of at least six vertical grooves at the end. There are the remains of four rivets which have undergone extensive corrosion causing the plates of antler to crack and be forced apart. Most of the spongy tissue has disintegrated leaving the handle fragments hollow. L. 180mm; diameter of handle 18mm; COT93, 1004, sf16.

    Several handled combs are known from Northumbria. One was found at the Anglo-Saxon monastery at Hartlepool (Daniels 1988, 195, fig.37) and a second came from the monastery at Whitby (Peers and Radford 1943, 70, No.106). A handled comb was found in a cist burial at Cambois, Northumberland (Alexander 1987, 101-2). There are several examples from York, including one published by Waterman (1959, 89), eleven from Coppergate, two from the Barbican Leisure Centre and three from Fishergate (Rogers 1993, 1389-94, fig.679). A fragment of a second handled comb was recovered from the plough soil at Cottam by metal detector users (No.067). This was also made from an antler tine which had been cut along half its length with a longitudinal groove; the decoration was unclear but may have comprised a cross-hatched panel flanked by two vertical grooves on each side.

    On the Continent, antler handled combs have been found in excavations at Dorestad and in Frisian terp mounds, where a date range of c.700-850 AD was suggested for the type (Roes 1963, 22-3). Other examples are known from the Rhineland, Hedeby, Birka and from Scandinavian graves. Waterman (1959, 90-1) has suggested that the impetus behind their distribution was Frisian merchants and there are documentary references to a Frisian colony in York in the late eighth century (Rolleson 1998, 131-2). MacGregor points out, however, that there are several examples in the east and south of England, where they appear to be popular from the seventh century onwards (MacGregor 1985, 91). Riddler has suggested that they are frequent finds in Middle and Late Saxon England, with at least 100 from sites of this period throughout the country (Riddler forthcoming); a continental origin should therefore not be assumed.

Double-sided combs

  1. Fragment of connecting plate with plano-convex section, tapering towards sawn end and roughly broken at other end across a rivet hole. A second rivet near the tip holds a fragment of a tooth plate attached to the connecting plate. The connecting plate is decorated with incised cross-hatching. L.28, W.11, T.3mm; COT93, 1003, sf56.

  2. Fragment of connecting plate with plano-convex section, roughly broken at both ends, in each case across a rivet hole. There are tooth sawing marks on both edges, and the fragment is decorated with incised cross-hatching with two transverse incised lines at one end. L.38.5, W.12.5, T.2.5mm; COT93, 1003, sf26.

  3. Fragment of connecting plate with plano-convex section, roughly broken at both ends, in each case across a rivet hole. There are tooth sawing marks at both edges, and the fragment is decorated at each end with two transverse incised lines and cross-hatching. L.40, W.13, T.3mm; COT93, 1043, sf74.

  4. Fragment of end plate, roughly broken. There are traces of teeth on both sides, but all have been broken off. L.32, W.11, T.2mm; COT95, 4242, sf167.


  1. Fragment9 of ?knife handle, in poor condition. Originally of circular section but roughly broken off at tang end. It is decorated with a grooved line at the end and at least three crude lines of ring and dot ornament running down the sides, with probably a fourth line on the missing side. L.51, W.15mm; COT95, 4136, sf139.