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Denmark

At Ribe, whose foundation is historically attested as occurring in the early 8th century, few completed combs were recovered from excavations in the 1970s, despite a considerable quantity of evidence for manufacture (Ambrosiani 1981, 94; Jensen 1991b; Feveile 1992; Feveile and Jensen 2000). From the earlier interventions, only thirteen fragments of completed combs were recovered, of which few are identifiable. One is clearly a Type 5, and Ambrosiani (1981, 131) thinks the ornament indicative of the Vendel period; it is notable that it comes from a pit dendrochronologically dated to AD 710 (Ambrosiani 1981, 153). Ambrosiani points out that the form of the connecting plate blanks cannot be reconciled with her A-combs, and they are more likely to represent pre-Viking forms. Notably, Types 8a and 8b are absent from the Post Office site, and though there is an example of the latter form from another site in the town, the context is insecure, and it is probably of medieval date. However, in addition to examples of Type 5 and 6 from the Post Office site (Feveile 2006b), there are two (presumably intrusive) examples of Type 13, one with straight endplates, the other with complex, profiled ends, and two rows of close-set rivets, while a Type 14b one-piece double-sided comb carved in elephant ivory was recovered from a 'recent' layer.

The evidence outlined above accords well with the chronology at a range of sites less commonly discussed in artefactual syntheses published in the UK. For example, excavations in Aarhus (being a key port on the east coast of Jutland, and a fortified settlement from the 10th century) have recovered a number of combs, dominated by Types 6 and 7, and including a well-known example with a runic inscription (e.g. Andersen et al. 1971, 143; Skov 2005, 28). The other key Danish sites relating to this era are the ring fortresses at Trelleborg, Zealand (Nørlund 1948), Fyrkat (Olsen and Schmidt 1977; Roesdahl 1973; 1977), Nonnebakken (Thrane 1987) and Aggersborg (Pedersen et al. in prep.) (Trelleborg, Scania, which is often associated with the other forts in this group, is discussed below; it probably does not fit into the same development). It is often assumed that these sites are relatively clean of finds, but in fact their artefactual assemblages are informative. While conditions at Fyrkat are not conducive to good bone preservation (Roesdahl 1973, 186), and the Viking-Age phase at Nonnebakken was similarly unproductive, being disturbed by medieval and later activity (Roesdahl 1973, 201-2), a little can be said about combs from Aggersborg and Trelleborg, Denmark. At Aggersborg (dating back to around AD 980, or perhaps slightly earlier; Pedersen et al. in prep.), a collection of around 30 combs and fragments is dominated by Type 5, but with examples of Types 6, 7, 8a, 8b and 9 also present (author's data), while Types 6, 7, 8a and 8b are observable at Trelleborg, Denmark (Nørlund 1948, plates 30-31). Dendrochronological analysis of timbers at the latter site has yielded a felling date of AD 980, and given that these sites seem to have been short-lived, and the observation that they share considerable architectural commonality, the group as a whole is conventionally dated to the late 10th century. Their evidence is thus consistent with combs of Types 6, 7, 8 and (to some extent) 9 being current in the 10th century.

Combs and manufacturing evidence have been recovered from a number of the Danish coastal sites surveyed by Jens Ulriksen (see Ulriksen 1998; 2004). Examples include Naes (Christiansen 2006; Hansen and Høier 2000) Fyns Hoved, Sebbersund (Nielsen 2008), Vester Egesborg (Ulriksen 2006), Selsø-Vestby and Kirke Hyllinge-Stensgård (Jens Ulriksen pers. comm.), but the artefactual material is not yet comprehensively published, and it has not been possible to see it for the present review. The same may be said of 11th-century material from Roskilde, and though contemporary combs and bone/antlerworking material from the town of Viborg (Iversen and Roesdahl 2005; Larsen 2005; see also Hjermind et al. 1998) has been published, at present it is a little difficult to establish the forms being manufactured there. Together, these collections hold much potential for future analysis.

 

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