WAW-250340: Iron Age comb (plan and reverse).

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Rights Holder: Candy Stevens
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Unique ID: WAW-250340

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

An Iron Age cast copper alloy comb. The comb is a sub-rectangle in plan. One long edge is convexly curved, forming the upper edge of the comb. The upper surface of both sides of the comb is decorated. Mary Davis (National Museums and Galleries of Wales) confirms the decoration was cast rather than incised. The decoration consists of mirror-style decoration with a cross-hatched background. The central shape is a curvilinear '^' shape with the terminals forming a horizontal comma. Within each comma there is a crescent decorated with radiate ribbing, which Jody Joy (British Museum) describes as an 'armadillo' motif. At the apex of the '^' there is a 7.2mm diameter hole, presumably a suspension hole. The hole is incorporated into the design of the mirror-style motifs. The design on both faces is set with a plain border around the curved edge. Further decoration occurs on the side of the curved portion of the comb, as it has a 'V' shaped profile, which on one side continues until the prongs. The other side tapers until it is smooth c. 11mm above the prongs. The prongs of the comb are all c. 29mm long, 2.4mm wide at the top, and tapering to 1.2mm wide at their tip. All the prongs are complete except for one at the end. This one was lost in antiquity and the comb was re-shaped to disguise this break in antiquity. Due to the re-shaping the border edge around the decoration is narrowed on this side and the remaining prong is slightly off-set and this is why the 'V' shaped profile becomes smooth above the prongs. The surface of the comb has a well developed mid green/brown patina. There are small spots of corrosion, which are, at present stable. The comb measures 63.56mm wide, 52.66mm long from the apex to prong terminals and 2.06mm thick at the apex. It weighs 30.4g.

The decoration is similar to that of Late Iron Age mirrors. The 'armadillo' motif in particular occurs in the mirrors from Holcombe, Devon (Jope, E.M. 2000 Early Celtic Art in the British Isles Oxford, Clarendon Press, Plate 242), Birdlip, Gloucestershire (Jope, E.M. 2000: Plates 246-247) and Desborough, Northamptonshire (Jope, E.M. 2000: Plates 240). Joy (pers comm) comments that these mirrors were deposited c. 40 to 70 AD, and this may apply to the comb due to the similarity in decoration. This concurs with Dr. Adam Gwilt's view, who comments he thought the comb may date to c. 25 to 75 AD when comparing it to other similarly decorated artefacts, such as spoons and terrets. The National Museums and Galleries of Wales was approached to undertake analysis of the bronze. Mary Davis carried this out, and wrote in her report 'The tin content is between 12-15%, and although the upper range is high, this could be partly due to tin enrichment at the surface. Arsenic is often found as a minor element in Iron Age bronze and detected on this piece.' In conclusion Mary Davis wrote 'The results are consistent with an object of Late Iron Age date.'

The function of the comb is not certain. Sara Wear (Warwickshire Museum) suggested it may be a type of curry comb for horse's manes and tails. The width of the prongs are quite stout perhaps suggesting the need for a robust comb. In comparison, another cast copper alloy Iron Age comb, on display in the museum in Bibraete, Saone and Loire Province, France has more fine prongs, perhaps indicting this was more likely to have been used for personal grooming. This comb, as yet, it the only other late Iron Age comb that has been traced. However the decorative style and overall shape, is completely different to that of the Tanworth-in-Arden example.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: IRON AGE
Period from: IRON AGE
Period to: IRON AGE
Date from: Circa AD 25
Date to: Circa AD 70

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 52.66 mm
Width: 63.56 mm
Thickness: 2.04 mm
Weight: 30.4 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 1st January 2006

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Angie Bolton
Identified by: Ms Angie Bolton

Other reference numbers

Other reference: Drawing No. WAW-250340/ 186

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Manufacture method: Cast
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: West Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Warwickshire (County)
District: Stratford-on-Avon (District)
To be known as: Tanworth in Arden

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: WAW
Created: 12 years ago
Updated: 6 months ago

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