Posts Tagged: MacGregor

EDITED: MacGregor’s Typology of Bone and Antler Hair Accessories

I am on the hunt for a more accurate look for my hair and top-bits. So I plan to learn to carve bone and antler. A very good friend turned me onto MacGregor’s book on bone and antler carving. Wow, what an awesome book! It is a few hundred pages of detailed information on bone, antler, horn and ivory carving in history. One of my favorite sections is on how composite combs are made. This book should be in every artisan’s library.

The second section of the book is a typology of finds which is useful as a starting point for my research.  I do find some of his categories (Dark Age and Romanesque ‘Liturgical Combs’) a bit confusing and will try to put some parameters to each type. For the purposes of this article, I will consider MacGregor’s term “Dark Ages” to refer to what we call the “Migration Period” which was roughly from 400 to 800 A.D.

There is another typology described in Wietske Prummel; Hülya Halici; Annemieke Verbaas: The bone and antler tools from the Wijnaldum-Tjitsma terp . Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 3-1 (November 2011). The finds described in this article are of a narrow variety (finds from Wijnaldum-Tjitsma) than described by MacGregor who had a wider scope of time and geography. I will have to explore this more as I go along and cross-reference the two typologies somehow. There are more typologies that will also be cross-referenced as I continue the work.

This page will become a record of finds and extant pieces from each type. It will be updated as I find online sources, references, articles, etc. on the topic. Some of the sites will be in French, German. Please please let me know if I am interpreting the text incorrectly.

Source: MacGregor, Arthur (1985) Bone, antler, ivory and horn. Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books

One-piece Combs: Typology

  • Germanic Single-sided Combs
  • Germanic’ Miniature Combs
  • Other Miniature Combs
  • Roman Double-sided Combs
    • Bone comb 1st Century, (Chlodwigplatz, 1. Jh. Aufnahme: RGM / Axel Thuünker DGPh)
      • double sided combs with two finely carved facing griffins, with an urn in the center axis.
  • Dark Age and Romanesque ‘Liturgical Combs’

Composite Combs: Typology

  • Single-sided Composite Combs
    • Round-backed Combs
    • Triangular-backed Combs
      • Bone crest with stag representation (German: Knochenkamm mit Hirschdarstellung)
        • Triangular-backed comb, Grave 74, Altendorf, Bamberg (aus dem Körpergrab 74 von Altendorf, Lkr. Bamberg)
        • A stag is carved in the triangular flange.
      • Triangular bone, with horse heads, with comb case
        • Rezső PUSZTAI, A Lébényi Germán fejdelmi sír (The Germanic chieftain’s grave from Lébény). Arrabona 8, 1966, 101, Figure 7 – István Bona, The Hun Empire (Budapest / Stuttgart 1991), 271-272.
    • Rectangular-backed ‘Handled’ Combs
    • Barred Zoomorphic Combs
    • Other Barred Combs
    • Asymmetrical Combs
    • Hogbacked Combs
    • High-backed ‘Celtic’ Combs
    • Combs with Deep, Thin Side-plates
    • Combs with Shallow, Thick Side-plates
    • Combs with Trapezoidal Side-plates
    • Combs with Rectangular-section Side-plates
    • False-ribbed Combs with Arched Backs
    • Handled Combs
  • Double-sided Composite Combs
    • Roman Period Combs (NOTE: I will use the end of the 5th century as the cut-off date for this category)
      •  Roman comb ( 4th/5th century AD ). Roman museum Kastell Boiotro ( Passau ).
        • Doubled sided comb with deeply incised diagonal lines, meeting in a lozenge shage at the center axis.
    • Dark Age Combs

Horn Combs
Comb Cases


  • Headless Pins
  • Conical-headed Pins with Flanged Shanks
  • Bead-and-reel Headed Pins
  • Spherical-headed Pins
  • Polygonal-headed Pins
  • Nail-headed Pins
  • Axe-headed Pins
  • Anthropomorphic  Pins
  • Zoomorphic Pins
  • Segmented-head Pins
  • Disc-headed  Pins
  • Small Disc-headed Pins
  • Cruciform-headed Pins
  • Loose Ring-headed Pins
  • Thistle-headed Pins
  • Expanded-head Pins
  • Pig Fibula Pins
  • Globular Pin-heads


  • Knochenkamm (German: bone comb)
  • Kreisaugenverzierung (German: bird’s eye circle decorations)

Resources to follow up on:

  • Ambrosiani, K. 1981, Viking Age combs, comb making and comb makers in the light of combs? from Birka and Ribe, Stockholm (Stockholm Studies in Archaeology 2).
  • Ulbricht, I. 1978, Die Geweihverarbeitung in Haithabu, Neumünster (Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 7).
  • Prummel, W., & andAnnemieke Verbaas, H. H. (2011). The bone and antler tools from the Wijnaldum-Tjitsma terpJournal of Archaeology in the Low Countries3, 65-106.