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Antler comb, Winnall, Winchester

Roman, 4th or early 5th century AD.

Found during excavations by the Archaeological Section of the Winchester Museum Service at St. Martin's Close, Winnall, Winchester, 1984-5.

This elaborately decorated comb was found inside an inlaid bone box that had been placed in the grave of a young woman. The main part of the comb is decorated with rings and dots, and the end plates are carved with figures with more rings and dots. Archaeologists believe that such combs were first made plain and then decorated to order. Popular motifs were owls, dolphins and horses. The trained eye can tell that this is a horse comb, as the decorations on the end plate look like opposite pairs of horse heads.

People buried in this part of Winchester's eastern Roman cemetery rarely received grave goods, but those that were found tended to be of high quality, indicating the high status of the population group. The way people were buried compares well in some respects to the Christian cemeteries of the late Roman period in the Mediterranean and Near East.