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South-western England

The situation in the south-west is difficult to assess, given the acid soils of the region, with few combs known from Bristol and Exeter (e.g. Watts and Rahtz 1985; Sivier 2002; Allan 1984). At Mary-le-Port, Bristol, in addition to two undiagnostic toothplates (misidentified in the original report as 'simple' combs) there is a Type 8c comb from a 'phase 2c' context, though in effect this could relate to any time between the 'late Saxon' period and the 13th century (Watts and Rahtz 1985, 179-80). In Bath, a bone strip from Bath Street, and another from the Spa, may represent either fragmentary examples of Type 4 riveted mounts, or perhaps Type 2a combs (Clarke 2007, 100-1), while a Type 8b fragment has been recorded from excavations at Citizen Road (I. Riddler pers. comm.).

Few objects of worked skeletal material were recovered from early medieval levels during Leslie Alcock's excavations at the multi-period site of Cadbury Castle, Somerset. Objects included a number of decorated bone plaques, not dissimilar in ornament to that seen on Type 10 and 11 combs, as well as an ornate endplate from a Type 10 comb. This was deposited in a 'Late Saxon' bank, but its period of use clearly pre-dates this (Alcock 1963, 104-7). A small number of later medieval and post-medieval combs were recovered from excavations at Old Sarum, notably including well-preserved examples of Types 13 and 14b, the latter in elephant ivory. Unfortunately the contexts of both are insecure (MacGregor 2001, 22-3).

Elsewhere in the south-west, Type 10 combs are known from sites such as the Lankhills Roman Cemetery, Hampshire (see Galloway 1979), while small numbers of Type 12 combs are known from Anglo-Saxon cemeteries and settlement sites, such as the small 7th-century gravefield at Foxcote, Withington, Gloucestershire (Donovan and Dunning 1936, 157-70; Heighway 1987, 23). Further details regarding sites in the south-west of England are given in the Data Section, but few significant published collections of combs from the region are known to the author, and little can be said about comb manufacture and use in the 9th to 11th centuries. Mawgan Porth, a key rural settlement site for the south-west during the Viking Age, produced only a single, undiagnostic comb fragment (Bruce-Mitford 1997, 85-6). There are, however, nationally-important collections from Southampton and Winchester.

 

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