The Southern Baltic

Map of Southern Baltic showing comb finds


The corpus of combs from the south coasts of the Baltic Sea is a well-studied resource. In Denmark, material comes from excavations of a range of sites, including well-known towns and market centres such as Ribe and Aarhus. In Schleswig-Holstein (Germany), we have the key sites of Haithabu and Schleswig, while further east along the southern coast of the Baltic, the key early medieval sites are - in Germany - Gross Strömkendorf (Wietrzichowski 1993; Jöns 1998; Tummunscheit 2003), Ralswiek (Herrmann 2005) and Menzlin (Schoknecht 1977), and - in Poland - Wolin (Cnotliwy 1970), Janów Pomorski (identified with Wulfstan's Truso; Jagodziński 2009; Jagodziński and Kasprzycka 1991) and Kolobrzeg (Cnotliwy 1973). The remarkable settlement and 'cult' site at Groβ Raden (Schuldt 1981; 1985; 1987), and the medieval towns of Szczecin and Gdansk also yield important collections (Cnotliwy 1973). These last are of particular note, and the comb collections established through early urban excavations in Poland are well synthesised, largely thanks to the work of Eugeniusz Cnotliwy (1956; 1958; 1966; 1969; 1970; 1973), though a fresh study of recently excavated material would be welcome.

Denmark | Northern Germany | Northern Poland


In general, the many excavated sites in Denmark, northern Germany, and northern Poland have yielded smaller numbers of combs than have the case studies outlined, but their type profiles are in broad concordance with the chronological patterning at Haithabu, Ribe, and Wolin (see Data Section). Thus, as far as can be discerned, it seems that in the southern Baltic region, the 5th- to 8th-century corpus (developing initially out of Type 1a, into 2a, 2b, and 12) was slowly transformed, so that from the 9th century we see a progression through Type 5, into Types 6, 7, and 8a/b in the 10th and 11th centuries, and into Types 9 and 13 from the 12th century onward. Type 14a is long-lived, perhaps suggesting a different utility. Of course, a number of more southerly sites within the Polish and German interiors - traditionally seen as part of the early medieval 'Slavic' cultural area - are also characterised by collections of comb material (e.g. Piekalskiego and Wachowskiego 2004, 246, 252). However, for practical reasons they must remain beyond the scope of this review.

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