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An early Roman bone comb decorated with incised circles.

Wood and a wide range of other organic materials have been employed for the production of combs. In addition, metal combs were manufactured from the Bronze Age onwards. As far as wooden combs are concerned, few have survived from European prehistory and the surviving examples are mostly of the one-sided type with just one row of teeth. The oldest double-sided wooden combs stem from the Neolithic.

They became widespread in the Roman era when wooden combs, nearly always of boxwood, seem to have been articles of everyday use at all levels of society. After the Germanic incursions and the crisis of the 3rd century AD, when supplies of ready-made box combs from the Mediterranean were interrupted, antler and bone were exploited as the dominant primary materials and combs were usually composed of a number of individually worked tooth-plates, riveted between two side plates, rather than produced from a single piece.

A comb like this example would have been used by Roman women for styling individual sections of hair. This was particularly important for the earlier, more elaborate Flavian hairstyles.

Condition: A well preserved example.

Dimensions: 46mm x 40mm

Provenance: Ex. private collection, UK.


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