Artifact Geographies of the Viking Age


The hair comb is one of the most commonly recovered bone artifacts from early medieval sites in Northern Europe, particularly in Viking-Age Scandinavia. Beyond the bone hair comb’s association with technological innovation, it acts as a powerful proxy for urbanism, human migration, and long-range trade in Viking-Age towns. Yet despite this prevalence, the bone hair comb remains understudied in recent years and few multi-site syntheses have been undertaken. Existing studies have focused on the stylistic and technological aspects of combs rather than the raw materials used in their manufacture. This is largely due to unreliable methods of raw-material identification for highly worked bone objects. Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) is a low-cost and minimally destructive proteomic technique which has been successfully applied in the identification of such raw materials. By producing a ‘peptide fingerprint’, ZooMS can distinguish between the antler of biogeographically discreet deer species from which comb crafting components are sourced. Through the application of ZooMS to the analysis of bone hair combs, our study further characterises the technological innovations and population dynamics of the Viking Age. This paper introduces a new project that will undertake such analyses across Viking and medieval Northern Europe.

Cite this Record

Artifact Geographies of the Viking Age. Mariana Muñoz-Rodríguez, Steve Ashby, Lena Holmquist. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431366)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17110