What is it about?

Hedeby (Germany) is the most southerly of Europe's early Viking towns. Here we show that many hair combs from the town's early phases are made of reindeer antler, indicating contact with upland or arctic Scandinavia in the 9th century.

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Why is it important?

Archaeological evidence for Hedeby's northern contacts has largely come through the sourcing of stone products (steatite vessels and schist whetstones from Norway), but these are difficult to date. Here, a fine-grained typology was applied to the combs, allowing us to identify a period of extensive contact with Scandinavia in the 9th century AD.


This paper emerges from research I have been developing in collaboration with York's BioArCH facility for well over a decade. By applying our ZooMS technique to combs, we have begun to answer a whole range of questions about the timing of travel and trade in Viking-Age Britain and Scandinavia. The work at Hedeby is particularly interesting, as it tells us about connections between the mountains of upland or arctic Scandinavia and this large town at the gateway to continental Europe, and points to a window in the 9th century when these northern links must have been particularly strong.

Dr Steven P Ashby
University of York

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: In the footsteps of Ohthere: biomolecular analysis of early Viking Age hair combs from Hedeby (Haithabu), Antiquity, August 2023, Antiquity Publications,
DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2023.118.
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