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Pre-and early Viking-Age sites in Norway

In first millennial Norway, a proportion of combs are derived from the excavation of furnished burials, principally in the north-western coastal zone. For instance, a number of antiquarian acquisitions and spot finds from the Trøndelag region are held by Trondheim Vitenskapsmuseet, and though a thorough survey was not possible, it is clear that Type 5 combs were important as grave goods in this region. The same is true throughout much of north-western Norway, and there are notable occurrences beyond this region; one might note an example from the ship grave at Oseberg, Vestfold (dated to c. AD 820: Bonde 1994, 141; Bonde and Christensen 1993), though there are no comb remains from the Gokstad burial, also in Vestfold (Nicolaysen 1882).

Collections from settlement sites are less well known. The key intervention in northern Norway, Munch's excavations at Borg in Lofoten, recovered no combs (see Munch et al. 2003). The situation is little better at Kaupang, where poor preservation renders quantification impossible, though it is possible to discern the characteristic cross-sections and decorative schemes of combs of Types 5 and 6 (author's data; see also Skre and Stylegar 2004, 47, fig. 50). Significantly, interventions at Nordre Bjørkum in Lærda, led by the University of Bergen, seem to have identified a 9th-century farm and trading site, with evidence of both combs and production waste (Ramstad 2010; M. Ramstad pers. comm.). Given the paucity of evidence from early activity sites elsewhere in Norway, full publication of these excavations is eagerly awaited.

In all, apart from Norwegian urban excavation, well-provenanced combs are limited in numbers, and other than the general impression of an extended currency for Type 5, a comprehensive understanding of the range of combs in circulation in early Viking-Age Norway remains elusive. Much more may be said of combs deposited between the late 10th and 15th centuries. The collections from three of Norway's best excavated medieval towns - Oslo, Trondheim, and Bergen - are reviewed.

 

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