The Bar Hill Comb

The discovery of the Bar Hill comb

In march 2023, Archaeologists of the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) identified a portion of a hair comb made with human skull bone at the Bar Hill archaeological site. Bar Hill is a small village 4 miles from Cambridge where 280,000 artifacts were found during the excavation campaign between 2016 and 2018. 

The artifact dates back to between 400 and 100 BC. It fits into the pre-Roman age, more precisely in the Iron Age, dated in Britain between 750 BC and 43 BC. More specifically, this comb-shaped part of the human bone is the skull’s temporal bone.

It shows no signs of useBecause it also has a circular hole in the upper part, the archeologists theorized that the iron age people wore it around the neck as an amulet. It probably belonged to the skull of an essential Iron Age society member, which was a way to commemorate him.

Michael Marshall, the archaeological team’s lead, called the find “truly astonishing” because similar objects found in Britain are only two, and they are 24 km far from the Bar Hill archaeological site. Iron age men and women commonly made combs with animal bones for textile and stylistic reasons; however, combs made of human bones were rare.

The Bar Hill Comb ©MOLA

The Iron Age

This period is so called because it sees the primary use of this metal compared to bronze. One of the main reasons lay in the fact that iron deposits were abundant and consequently lower costs in terms of human effort. Furthermore, iron was an exceptionally resistant material for making saws, axes, hoes, and nails.
The first truly European civilization of the Iron Age is that of Hallstatt (750-450 BC), so called after the name of the archaeological site in the Austrian Alps where archeologists discovered over 2500 tombs. Subsequently, it was followed by the civilization of La Tène (450-58 BC), the name of the Swiss locality near Lake Neuchâtel, where archeologists in the 19 mid – century found in its waters a deep concentration of metal artifacts.