Chemical Analysis of Viking Combs Hints at Long-Distance Trade

Germany Viking CombYORK, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of York, a new analysis of collagen extracted from Viking hair combs by researchers from the University of York, University of Stockholm, the University of Barcelona, the Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, and the Leibniz Center for Archaeology suggests trade between the Viking settlement of Hedeby in Germany and northern Scandinavia may have originated earlier than previously thought. Large amounts of craft production waste, mostly comprised of red deer antler, has been recovered at Hedeby, a major antler-working center. But the study found that 85 to 90 percent of the finished antler combs unearthed in Hedeby had been made from the antlers of reindeer, which live in northern Scandinavia. The study therefore indicates that the combs unearthed at Hedeby had been manufactured elsewhere and then transported on a large scale as early as A.D. 800. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Antiquity. To read about a 3,700-year-old ivory comb unearthed in Israel, go to “L is for Lice.”


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