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Wales

Map of Wales showing comb finds
Legend

Combs are not frequent finds at early medieval sites in Wales, but those that are known are morphologically diverse. Particularly notable examples include a number of Type 1c combs from 7th- and 8th-century phases at Mark Redknap's recent excavations at Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey (Redknap pers. comm; see also Redknap 2000, 83, fig. 125), and the well-known, highly ornate Type 10 combs from the 5th- to 8th-century royal site of Dinas Powys, Glamorgan (Alcock 1963, 154-9). Unfortunately, the Dinas Powys combs are not independently dated, with examples coming from layers containing a mixture of pottery dated to the 5th to 7th, and 11th to 12th centuries (Alcock 1963, 10).

Llanbedrgoch, in contrast, is well dated, and consequently worth dwelling on a little. All of the identifiable combs from the site fit into class 1c, though there is some variation in ornament and profile (tightly dated examples relate to 7th- and 8th-century phases, but there are also comb fragments from Viking-Age levels, and these are not securely classified to type. Evidence for antler-working has also been identified, but the author has not examined the collection, and it is not possible at present to characterise this material as related to the production of combs in particular (Redknap n.d.).

Redknap (in prep.) has recently surveyed the evidence from elsewhere in Wales, and this study also emphasises the diversity of the corpus. In late 9th/early 10th-century deposits at Llan-gors Crannog (Powys), Redknap (in prep.) characterises all of the combs as single-sided composite types comparable to Ambrosiani's Type A1-A3 combs (i.e. Type 5 here; though the present author has neither examined the combs nor illustrations thereof). Combs are decorated with a combination of ring-and-dot, incised line, and interlace ornament but, most notably, one of the combs is fixed with bone pegs, rather than iron rivets. This practice is often seen as an 'Irish' phenomenon (see MacGregor 1985, 62; Dunlevy 1988, 358), so may have implications for the source or biography of this particular Type 5 comb. It is also notable that Redknap has identified further combs fixed with bone rivets in Wales, from sites including Minchin Hole, Gower (Type 2c: Branigan et al. 1993, 56 no. 6.1) and Draethen, Glamorgan (2b) (Tuck and Tuck 1971, 32).

 

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