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Northern Germany

The areas of Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Western Pomerania provide some key material for understanding the comb trade in the southern Baltic region. In particular, one should mention the collection from the important 8th- to 11th-century trading centre at Haithabu, Schleswig-Holstein (Tempel 1970), while we might also note excavated material from the sites of Ralswiek on Rügen (Herrmann 1997; 2005) and Groβ Raden (Schuldt 1981; 1985; 1987), both in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Menzlin (Schoknecht 1977), Western Pomerania.

At Ralswiek (an extensively excavated trading site founded in the later 8th century), combs include Types 5 and 6, Types 7 and 8 (in smaller numbers), and Type 14b (clearly relating to later medieval and post-medieval activity on the site). The 8th- and 9th-century site of Menzlin seems to have been similarly closely articulated with the Baltic trade network, and combs here again include Type 5 (see Schoknecht 1977). Nonetheless, the lack of evidence for production technology on any scale, plus the general character of the material culture, suggests that the roles of these sites were not as nodes in any such network (see Sindbaek 2007a). The inland site of Groβ Raden appears more insular still. Large-scale excavation at this 9th- and 10th-century settlement and cult site have yielded an unusually large artefactual assemblage, but one that seems essentially rural in character, showing little evidence for long-distance trade (Schuldt 1981; 1985; 1987). Given this character, and its position on the fringe of our study area, detailed consideration of the comb material from this site would take us into a different sphere of influence, and discussion is best reserved for elsewhere, but the presence of types 7 and 8 are of note.

There is a significant corpus of combs from the important 9th- to mid-11th-century settlement of Haithabu (Tempel 1969; 1970), and this material rewards consideration in a little detail. Stratigraphic resolution at the site is low (see Clarke and Ambrosiani 1991, 59; Ulbricht 1978, 140), and though recent survey work at Haithabu is adding considerably to our conception of the settlement and its development (see Hilberg 2009), at the present time it is necessary to focus on material collected in the earlier 20th-century excavations. Types 3, 5, 6, 7, and 14b are known, as well as a few examples of forms 8a and 8b (see Tempel 1969, taf. 38, no. 6). The large Type 5 combs found in the earliest levels were thought to be imports, as no semi-manufactures of such form were identified. Interestingly, waste is absent in the first phases, but many combs from Tempel's Formengruppen 4-6 (Type 6 here) were made on site, and Ulbricht thus dates the start of production to the 10th century (Ulbricht 1978, 140). The number of Type 7 combs from the site is also interesting; Tempel lists 22 examples of his Formengruppe 9 (Type 7 here) from across Europe, 14 of which were from Haithabu, with one other also from Denmark. Combs that approximate to Type 8a are known from 10th-century deposits at Haithabu, and form part of Tempel's Formengruppe 7, but Type 8b is known only in small numbers, and is assigned a broad 10th- to 11th-century date. Rivet materials were not one of Tempel's key criteria in Formengruppe definition, but combs herein termed Type 9 do not seem to be common in the Haithabu corpus.

As one might expect, the comb forms from Schleswig (Haithabu's 11th-century successor) include most of Wiberg's (1977) Type 9 and 13 variants, but Type 6 is poorly represented. Type 14a combs are found throughout the 11th to 14th-century levels, while Type 9 is most common in 11th and 12th-century layers, becoming rare in the 13th century, and absent in the 14th. The first occurrence of a Type 13 comb is as early as the 11th century, but they do not become numerically important until the 12th and 13th centuries (Ulbricht 1984, 52).

At the north Frisian settlement of Elisenhof (Schleswig-Holstein), combs include Types 2a, 2c, 3, 5, 6, 13, 14b, and, through reference to material from Haithabu, Tempel dates Type 5 broadly to the 9th century, with Type 2 important in the 8th century, Type 6 in the 10th, and the double-sided forms only becoming important in the second millennium AD (Tempel 1979). The author has not inspected worked bone collections from Gross Strömkendorf (Germany; Wietrzichowski 1993; Jöns 1998; Tummunscheit 2003) and any comment ahead of full publication would be premature.

 

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