Early Medieval bone and antler working bibliography

This bibliography is not meant as a complete collection of every single article and book that covers Early Medieval boneworking (there are just too many titles for that), but it does aim to cover the whole range of artefacts, multiple cultures, time periods and countries, as well both actual finds and discussions of the materials, craft and industry itself.

The book or article titles themselves are the bold text. If the section is a chapter within a book, the specific chapter is then listed as a normal weight indented bullet point below the parent book.

While I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest any of these for an Early Medieval boneworker, those that I consider to be absolute “must haves” are in red text. The “Available here” links mean that that it can be (legally) downloaded from the link.

General non period boneworking techniques etc

There are many books out there on making things from bone, antler and horn (there seems to have been a spate in the US and Scandinavia in the late 1960’s – early 1980’s in particular) as well as many English books on stick making. A lot of them have something useful in them and are usually worth buying if found cheaply. However, the books below are those I would especially recommend looking for.

  • Gowan, L., 1997. “Stickmaking” ISBN: 1861260989
    An assortment of techniques for horn (and to a lesser degree antler) including an interesting chapter on microwave heating of horn.
  • Myhre, S., 2000. “Bone carving: a skillbase of techniques and concepts” ISBN: 0143009974
    As the title suggests, this focuses specifically on carving bone. The techniques can be applied to horn and antler as well though. Includes a good chapter on making carving chisels.
  • Nieuwenburg-Bron, A., 1984. “Beenbewerken” ISBN: 9789021300702
    Dutch. An old “how to” craft book full of templates and such, but also showing how to cut bone, various tools for a modern workshop etc.

Reports or books with artefacts

Almost every archaeological site has some form of artefacts made from skeletal material. It would take many years to catalogue the books from even one country, and as the majority of them would be very simple weaving tools and combs it is not really necessary. The following consist of the reports, books and sites that I consider to be worthwhile collecting due to either volume of artefacts, quality of images or as they have some very special items that are rarely found.

  • Ambrosiani, K., 1981. “Viking age combs, comb making and comb makers: In the light of finds from Birka and Ribe” ISBN: 9171461507
    Very useful, covers the industry surrounding comb manufacture, a practical experimentation section, list of other finds from the sites beside combs etc.
  • Arbman, H., 1943. “Birka I: Die Gräber”. Available here
    German. Two volume set (text and photos). Lots of combs, needlecases, gaming pieces, handles, spoons, weaving combs, skates and all kinds of other pretties.
  • Arne, T.J., “Das Bootgräberfeld von Tuna in Alsike Uppland.”
    German. Many combs and a few other artefacts such as handles and a needlecase.
  • Arrhenius, B., 1978. “Das Archäologische Fundmaterial III der Ausgrabung Haithabu.”
    German. Has a section on the bone flutes found at Hedeby as well as examples from other sites.
  • Ashby, S., 2011. “An Atlas of Medieval Combs from Northern Europe (website) Available here
    Typological guide to bone, antler and horns combs of Northwestern Europe and Russia. Shoes examples of each of Ashby’s types and subtypes.
  • Beckwith, J., 1974. “Ivory carvings in Early Medieval England 700-1200” ISBN: 0728700190 
    Museum exhibition catalogue, has many carved bone and ivory pieces including seals, crozier heads, crosses, caskets, panels etc.
  • Biddle, M, (ed.) 1990. “Object and Economy in Medieval Winchester: Artefacts from Medieval Winchester”. ISBN: 0198131755
    Where to start, it just covers all kinds fo everyday items. There are some buckles, pins, buzzbones, lots of combs, dice, gaming pieces, skates, whistles, casket mounts, spoons, handles and so on, Also has a chapter about the bone/antler/horn craft and industry.
  • Burch, M., & Trevill, P., 2011. “The development of early medieval and later Poultry and Cheapside: excavations at 1 Poultry and vicinity, City of London”. ISBN: 1901992950
    Not very much, but does have two rather important objects: a lucet with coloured incised decoration, and the remains of a blowing horn with fingerholes.
  • Buteux, S., & Allison, E.P., 1997. “Settlements at Skaill, Orkney: excavations by Peter Gelling of the prehistoric, Pictish, Viking and later periods, 1963-81” ISBN: 0860548643
    Lots of different combs and simple pins.
  • Caldwell, D.H., Hall, M.A. & Wilkinson, C.M., 2010. “The Lewis Chessmen Unmasked” ISBN: 1905267460
    While slightly out of period, the Lewis Chessmen are a very fine example of carving and this book includes a photograph of every piece in the collection, as well as close-up images showing details.
  • Capelle, T., 1970. Das archäologische Fundmaterial I der Ausgrabung Haithabu 1963-1964
    German. Has a section with lots of combs.
  • Carlsson, D., 2002. “Viking and Medieval Combs from the island of Gotland, Sweden”. ISBN 9197330442. (CD-ROM)
    Over 100 Viking and medieval combs from from Gotland and the surrounding area. Also included is short booklet covering the combmaking industry and their distribution.
  • Carlsson, D., 2008. “Viking Bone and Antler Craft”. (CD-ROM)
    More than 300 images of various bone and antler objects including needles, spindle whorls, dice and spoons. Also included is a small booklet about Scandinavia bonecraft in antiquity.
  • Clark, J., 1989. “Saxon and Norman London” ISBN 0112904580
    As a whole, there is very little in here, but there is a nice photo of an animal headed comb which makes it worthwhile as the booklet is usually so cheap.
  • Collis, J. & Kjølbye-Biddle, B., 1979. “Early Medieval Bone Spoons from Winchester” in Antiq. Journal 59, pp.375-91
    6 bone/ivory spoons from Winchester with varying amounts of decoration.
  • Constantine, D., 2016. “An Osseous pendant cross from Bamburgh, Northumberland”. in I. Riddler, J. Soulat and L. Keys (eds): The evidence of material culture: Studies in honour of Professor Vera Evison. 219 – 230. Éditions Mergoil,
    An interesting bone cross with examples of others from the UK.
  • Curle, A. 1938-39. “A Viking Settlement at Freswick, Caithness, Report on Excavations carried out in 1937 and 1938.” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries – Scotland, pages 71-108 and plates XXXVIII to LI  Available here
    Some nice combs and cases, buzzbones, simple pins etc.
  • Curle, C. L.,1982 “Pictish and Norse Finds From the Brough of Birsay, 1934-74.” Available here.
    Lots of Pictish and Viking artefacts – many pins, needles, combs, a bear tooth pendant (the original identification of seal tooth is wrong), gaming pieces and section of game board, spindle whorls, needle cases and beads.
  • Dalton, O.M. 1909. “Catalogue of the Ivory Carvings of the Christian Era With Examples of Mohammedan Art & Carvings in Bone in the Department of British & Mediaeval Antiquities & Ethnography of the British Museum”
    125 plates of exquisite bone and ivory carvings, some outside the period but many Saxon examples.
  • Dijkman, W., & Ervynck, A. 1998. “Antler, Bone, Horn, Ivory and Teeth: The Use of Animal Skeletal Materials in Roman and Early Medieval Maastricht” ISBN 9075472021.
    Mostly textile tools, but also with pins, amulets etc and a particularly nice bone mounted box.
  • Dunlevy, M. 1988. “A Classification of Early Irish Combs” in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 88C, pp.341-422.
    Includes discussion of manufacture, styles, decoration etc as well as comprehensive catalogue and a range of drawings of different styles.
  • Edberg, R. & Karlsson, J 2015. “Isläggar från Birka och Sigtuna. En undersökning av ett vikingatida och medeltida fyndmaterial” Available here
    Swedish with English summary. 679 bone skates from Sigtuna and Birka covering the Viking and Middles Ages (8th – 13th century).
  • Edwards, N. 1990. “The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland”. ISBN 081223085X
    Not very much but does include a short section on boneworking as a craft and a few nice finds from various crannogs.
  • Ex, W.V., & Verweers, W.J.H., 1980. “Excavations at Dorestad I. The Harbour: Hoogstraat I” ISBN: 9012032059
    A nice set of gaming pieces with dice, some skates and a few other everyday objects.
  • Evans, D. H., Loveluck, C., & Archibald, M., 2009. “Life and economy at early medieval Flixborough, c. AD 600-1000: the artefact evidence” ISBN: 1842173103
    Various pieces of weaving equipment, bone pins, combs, spoons etc. Also has details of the woodworking tool hoard that has some useful items for boneworking.
  • Frannson, U., Svedin, M., & Androschuck, F., 2007. “Cultural interaction between east and west. Archaeology, artefacts and human contacts in northern Europe in the pre and early history”.
    • Tesch, S.,  “Cum Grano Salis – Salt and Prestige”
      Covers Viking and medieval salt containers of bone and antler.
  • Galloway, P., & Newcomer, M., 1981. “The Craft of Combmaking: An Experimental Enquiry” in Inst. Arch. 18, pp. 73-90
    Describes and documents the manufacture process using modern tools.
  • Gevaert, G., Mees, J., Pieters, M., Seys, J., & Verhaeghe, F., 2003. “Fishery, trade and piracy: fishermen and fishermen’s settlements in and around the North Sea area in the Middle Ages and later ; 1. papers form the colloquium at Oostende-Raversijde, Provincial Museum Walraversijde, Belgium, 21 – 23 November 2003 “
    • Riddler, I., “Early Medieval Fishing Implements of Bone and Antler”
      Looks at line sinkers, fish gorges etc. Available here
  • Graham-Campbell, J., 1978. “An Anglo-Scandinavian ornamented knife from Canterbury, Kent”. in Medieval Archaeology, 22, 130-133 Available here.
    A particularly fine example of a folding “scribes” knife with a very nicely decorated bone handle.
  • Graham-Campbell, J., 1980 “Viking Artefacts: A Select Catalogue” ISBN: 9780714113548
    The accompanying book to the museum catalogue below (Graham-Campbell & Kidd, 1980). Full of the dates, measurements etc for the pretty photos in the catalogue.
  • Graham-Campbell, J., & Kidd, D., 1980 “The Vikings.” ISBN: 0688036031.
    Museum exhibition catalogue, a few nice photos including whalebone plaque, carved bone pin, whalebone linewinder, carved trial pieces, antler mould, skates, carved handle with a head and carved antler sword fittings.
  • Graham-Campbell, J., (ed) 1982. “The Anglo Saxons” 0140143955
    Not as good as “The Vikings” but still a few nice odds and ends. There are some combs from Southampton, an assortment of ivories and caskets and a rather nice little bone plaque.
  • Hall, R., 1984. “The Viking Dig” ISBN: 0370308212
    Focusing on York, this book has a number of interesting items including a whalebone sword pommel, combs, skates, weaving tablet and dice
  • Hall, R., 1994. “Viking Age York” ISBN: 0713470143
    A similar book to “The Viking Dig” but with enough difference to make it worthwhile getting both. Skeletal artefacts include skates, a strap end, whistle, comb and gaming pieces.
  • Hamilton, J. R. C., 1956. “Excavations at Jarlshof, Shetland.” ISBN: 0116708190
    Covers the excavations from the earliest prehistoric levels through the later Medieval, with a good section on Norse finds. The most important items in here are the assorted zoomorphic pins, though some plain pins and various combs are also illustrated.
  • Hencken, H., 1950. “Lagore Crannog: An Irish Royal Residence of the 7th to 10th Centuries A.D.”. in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 53C, p1-248.
    Assorted combs, pins, “motif” pieces, gaming pieces, whorls, dice etc.
  • Lang, J. T., & Caulfield, D., 1988. “Viking Age Decorated Wood: A Study of its Ornament and Style”. ISBN: 0901714682
    As the name implies, this book is actually about wood but has a couple of pages with a few bone items at the back, as well as being full of ideas for decorating bone and antler.
  • Lauwerier, R. C., & Heeringen, R. M., 1995. “Objects of Bone, Antler and Horn from the Circular Fortress of Oost-Souburg, the Netherlands (AD 900-975)”. in Medieval Archaeology , 39, 71-90. Available here.
    A few differents types of artefact are illustrated, but the important two are combs and spindle whorls. In both cases a number of examples are shown as well as a discussion about the range of decoration found on them.
  • Leaf, H., 2006. “English Medieval Bone Flutes – a Brief Introduction” in The Galpin Society Journal, Vol 59.
    Discussion about the manufacture of bone flutes as well as a few examples.
  • Long, C.D., 1975. “Excavations in the Medieval city of Trondheim” in Medieval Archaeology. 19, 1975, pp. 1-32 Available here.
    Gives a rough outline of Trondheim from it’s beginning in the very late 10th century. There are not many artefacts, but the few that there are includes an antler clamp, combs and a walrus skull used as a loom weight!
  • MacGregor, A. 1975. “Barred Combs of Frisian Type in England” in Medieval Archaeology. 19, 1975, pp. 195-8 Available here.
    A few images and discussion of these unusual combs.
  • MacGregor, A., 1985. “Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn – The Technology of Skeletal Materials Since the Roman Period” ISBN 0709932421
    Even at nearly 30 years old, this is still the go to book. This book alone will give you a grounding in the materials, industry, techniques and artefacts.
  • MacGregor, A, Mainman, A.J., & Rogers, N.S.H., 1999. “Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn from Anglo-Scandinavian York” ISBN 1872414990,
    A huge book of the many finds from Viking (and slightly later) York. Combs, pins, weaving tools, belt fittigns, gaming pieces, caskets mounts – just about everything is represented here, it’s almost like the Winchester volumes but with the boring, non-boney bits removed 😀 
  • MacGregor, A., 1976. “Bone Skates: A Review of the Evidence” in Arch. Journal 133, pp. 57-74
    The title says it all really – a review of the known bone skates of the time, looks are manufacture, which skeletal element was used etc.
  • Mann J., 1982. “Early Medieval Finds From Flaxengate Lincoln-Objects of Antler, Bone, Stone, Horn, Ivory, Amber and Jet”
    A selection of the usual urban artefacts, similar to York – combs, spindle whorls, pins, dice, whistles, skates etc. Also includes a rather nice little bone axehead pendant.
  • Meaney, A. L., 1981. “Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Curing Stones” ISBN: 0860541487
    This has an entire section on animal amulets dealing with teeth, bones etc as well as manufactured amulets that includes hercules club pendants.
  • Myres J., 1973. “The Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries of Caistor-by-Norwich and Markshall.” ISBN: 0500770220
    As a cremation cemetery, this includes the usual small burnt combs etc, but primarily of interest is a collection of sheep bone gaming pieces that also included a single rune inscribed example made from a deer bone.
  • National Museum of Ireland, 1973. “Viking and Medieval Dublin – National Museum Excavations 1962-73 – Catalogue of Excavation”
    A useful catalogue of examples, but not many pictures. However, does have one of the few close up pictures of the bird headed pin from Dublin.
  • O’Meadhra, U., 1987. “Early Christian, Viking and Romanesque Art: Motif-Pieces from Ireland” 2 volume set. 
    Many pictures of the carved bone “motif” pieces found in Ireland.
  • Owen, O., & Dalland, M., 1999. “Scar”. ISBN: 1862320802
    The book covering the amazing Orkney whalebone plaque, has photos of other plaques for comparison. A couple of nice combs as well a set of whalebone gaming pieces.
  • Prummel, W., Halici, H., & Verbaas, A., 2011. “The bone and antler tools from the Wijnaldum-Tjitsma terp.” in Journal of Archaeology of the Low Countries, Vol 3-1. Available here.
    All sorts of different everyday objects; whorls, pins, whistles, pin beaters.
  • Riddler, I. (1990). “Saxon handled Combs from London”. Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 41, 9-20. Available here.
    A selection of various handled comb from London showing their similarities and differences. Detailed descriptions of the selected combs as well as a list of other similar finds.
  • Riddler, I., Trzaska-Nartowski, N., & Soulat, J., 2012. “‘Riveted Mounts’ Reconsidered; Horn Composite Combs in Early Medieval Britain, Ireland and France”. Available here.
    L
    ooks at and discusses the possibility of riveted bone mounts being components of horn/bone composite combs.
  • Rijkelijkhuzen, M., 2011. “Een middeleeuwse container van gewei. Een bijzondere vondst van het Burseplein, Deventer” in Westerheem, Vol 6, p232-235. Available here.
    Dutch. An 11th century antler container with compass drawn decoration from Deventer, Holland.
  • Ritchie, A. (1979). “Excavation of Pictish and Viking-age farmsteads at Buckquoy, Orkney”. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 108, 174-227. Available here.
    An assortment of artefacts from a small Pictish and Norse dwelling site. Various pins, needles and combs as well as a bone spoon.
  • Ritchie, A., 1993. “Viking Scotland” ISBN: 0713472251
    Not as full of images as some, but still useful and a lot cheaper than buying the Jarlshof report. Includes drawings of the Jarlshof zoomorphic pins, as well as various combs and needlecases from around Scotland.
  • Ritchie, C. I. A., 1975. “Bone and Horn Carving – A Pictorial History” ISBN 0498014045.
    A history of bone carving from prehistory to the present day. Includes an entire chapter covering “Dark Age” with gaming pieces, caskets etc.
  • Roes, A., 1963. “Bone and antler objects from the Frisian terp-mounds”.
    Vast amounts of all kinds of bone and antler objects from prehistory onwards that were uncovered in antiquity during the levelling of terp mounds in Holland. Dating is terrible at best and really a reasonable idea of typologies to be able to apply some form of context to the artefacts. Still an amazing book though.
  • Roesdahl, E. 1981.”The Vikings in England and in Their Danish Homeland”
    Museum exhibition catalogue. Numerous bone artefacts spread throughout such as pins, buckles, gaming pieces etc. Contains the only photo I can recall seeing of the green bone buckle from York.
  • Roesdahl, E., & Wilson, D.M., 1992. “From Viking to Crusader” ISBN: 0847816257.
    Museum exhibition catalogue, random pretty pictures of all sorts of objects from skates to croziers.
  • Roesdahl, E., 1995. “Hvalrostand elfenben og nordboerne i Grønland” ISBN: 8789375076
    Danish. A history of  walrus ivory and the Norse in Greenland. A lot of medieval items, but does have a few earlier objects including a rather nice “pen” case.
  • Rogers, N.S., 1993. “Anglian and other finds from 46-54 Fishergate.” ISBN: 1872414346
    Another site in York, so the usual range of objects, not quite as detailed as the Macgregor volume, but still a decent variety of combs, pins etc.
  • Rogerson, A., Dallas, C., & Archibald, M., 1984. “Excavations in Thetford, 1948-59 and 1973-80”. ISBN: 9781852811198 Available here
    Details of excavations covering a late Saxon settlement. Has a few useful tool finds (including a saw) as well as combs (including horn comb manufacturing), pins, needles, skates, whorls and some interesting random pieces such as a strainer made from a goose sternum. 
  • Schietzel, K., 1981. “Stand der siedlungsarchäologischen Forschung in Haithabu: Ergebnisse und Probleme.”
    German. Manufacturing discussion covering combs, beads, gaming pieces etc.
  • Smirnova, L., 2005. “Comb-Making in Medieval Novgorod (950-1450): An Industry in Transition.” ISBN 1841718114.
    An epic tome covering exactly what it says. Lots of combs, manufacturing techniques, decoration, typologies etc. One of the few comprehensive books about Russian boneworking that is in English.
  • St. Clair, A., & McLachlan, E. P., 1989. “The Carver’s art: medieval sculpture in ivory, bone, and horn. ISBN 9990468397
    Another exhibition catalogue like “Ivory carvings in Early Medieval England 700-1200” and covering the same range of artefacts. Not very large, but some nice images.
  • Schwarz-Mackensen, G., 1976. “Die Knochennadeln von Haithabu.”
    German. Many, many pointed bone objects – needles, pins, bodkins etc.
  • Tabraham, C.J., 2002. “Jarlshof: A walk through the past”. ISBN 1903570565.
    The guidebook for the Jarlshof site. Very little in the book itself, but the cover features some of the best close-up photographs I have seen of the zoomorphic pin heads.
  • Thunmark-Nylén, L., 1995. “Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands I. Abbildungen der Grabfunde”
    German. Combs, pins, spindle whorls, etc. all the usual stuff found in pagan burials.
  • Thunmark-Nylén, L., 1998. “Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands II. Typentafeln” ISBN: 9789174022872.
    German. More combs, whorls etc as well as needlecases, weaving tablets and various other odds and ends.
  • Ulbricht, I. (1978). Die Geweihverarbeitung in Haithabu. ISBN: 3529014079
    German. Lots of combs, some pins and needles, antler moulds for casting, a few tools (saw and clamps) and lots of waste antler offcuts and discussion of the processes.
  • Vince, A., 1991. “Aspects of Anglo-Norman London: Finds”
    A large section on bone artefacts with combs (including a well preserved horn example), skates, pins etc and a large amount of motif pieces with close inspection of their carvings.
  • Wade-Martins, P., 1973. “A 10th-Century Bone Flute from North Elmham, Norfolk” in The Galpin Society Journal, Vol XXVI
    A detailed discussion of one of the few Saxon whistles that have been closely studied.
  • Ward Perkins, J B., 1993. “London Museum Medieval Catalogue 1940”
    As it is a catalogue covering “Medieval” there are few objects in here that are both Saxon/Viking and bone, antler or horn. However, there are a few spoons as well as slightly later horn inkwells that may be similar to their earlier counterparts.
  • Waterman, D. M., 1959. “Late Saxon, Viking and Early Medieval Finds from York” in Archaeologia , 97, 59-105
    An amazing little report on the finds from York before the major excavations begun. A large amount of bone pins of varying degrees of decoration, lots of combs, belt buckles, whistles, mounts etc. Nice photographs as well as lots of drawings. 
  • Webster, L., 2012. “The Frank’s Casket” ISBN: 071412818X
    An excellent book showing detailed images of the Franks Casket panels as well as it’s history. Also shows possible original colouring of the casket.
  • West, B., 1982. “A Note on Bone Skates from London” in Transactions of the London & Middlesex Archaeology 33, pp. 304-20. Available here.
    Written as an addendum to Macgregor’s previously mentioned work on skates. Adds descriptions for further stratified skates found in London.
  • West, S.E., 1985. “West Stow: The Anglo Saxon Village” 2 Volume set Available here
    An excellent pair of books detailing a large amount of artefacts from an Early Saxon settlement. Vast amounts of combs, pins, whorls etc.

Boneworking industry, tools, methods etc

Crafting artefacts is all very well, but sooner or later anyone making period objects should get an interest in the hows and whys surrounding them. The books here deal with the craft and industry of bone working and comb making, the tools that were used and other intangible aspects of the craft in the past that don’t leave such obvious remains.

  • Ashby, S., 2014. “A Viking Way of Life” ISBN: 1445601524
    A rather interesting book that covers all aspects of antler combs, from gathering the materials through use to deposition. It can be a little hard going at times, but is worth it.
  • Blair, J, & Ramsey, N (Eds). 1991. “English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products”. ISBN: 0907628877
    • MacGregor, A., “Antler, Bone and Horn”
      Primarily discusses the bone, antler and horn industries of England pre and post Norman conquest.
  • Cameron, E. 1998. “Leather and Fur”. ISBN: 1873132514
    • Macgregor, A., “Hide, Horns and Bones: Animals and Interdependent Industries in the Early Urban Context”
      Discusses the various crafts that relied on dead animals (comb maker, tanner, butcehr etc) and how they related and interacted with each other.
    • Wigh, B., “Animal bones from the Viking town of Birka, Sweden.
      Looks at the animal bone assemblage as a whole from Birka and what it indicates. Emphasis is on fur and fur trade, but still an interesting read.
  • Choyke, A.M., & Bartosiewicz, L. 2001.  “Crafting Bone: Skeletal Technologies through Time and Space – Proceedings of the 2nd meeting of the (ICAZ) Worked Bone Research Group Budapest, 31 August – 5 September 1999” ISBN: 1841712299 Available here
    • Batey, C., “Viking and Late Norse Combs in Scotland: An Update.”
      A brief discussion of Viking combs in Scotland at the time. Looks at material identification, manufacture etc.
    • MacGregor, A., & Mainman, A.J., “The Bone and Antler Industry in Anglo-Scandinavian York: the Evidence from Coppergate.”
      Looks at the range of artefacts, manufacturing techniques etc based on the evidence from Coppergate. A good one to have if you don;’t have the actual report.
  • Choyke, A.M., & O’Connor, S., 2014. “From these bare bones” ISBN: 9781782972112
    • Ashby, S., “Some comments on the identification of cervid species in worked antler”
      Discusses ideas about how to identify between antler species using a microscope as well as touching on newer methods such as ZooMS.
  • Christopherson, A., 1980. “Handverket i forandring: Studier i horn-og beinhandverkets utvikling i Lund c:a 1000-1350”
    Norwegian. Deals with how the craft of bone and antler working evolved and changed during and just after the Early Medieval period.
  • Christopherson, A., 1980. “Raw Material, Resources, and Production Capacity in Early Medieval Comb Manufacture in Lund”. in Meddelanden från Lunds, ser. 3, pp. 155-65.
    Looks at the volume of production and whether or not the evidence supports large scale manufacture or if it indicates a few smaller craftspeople.
  • Driver, J.C., 1984. “Zooarchaeological analysis of raw material selection by a Saxon artisan” in Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol 11, Iss. 4, p397-403.
    Looks at the hows and why of bone selection and impact it can have on faunal assemblages.
  • Hadley, D.M. & Harkel, L.T., 2014. “Everyday Life in Viking-Age Towns” ISBN: 1842175327
    • Ashby, S., “Making a Good Comb: Mercantile identity in 9th – 11th century England”.
      Describes (again) the possible comb production method and how it came about, was it changed, how much variation there was between different areas etc.
  • Hallén, Y. (1994). “The use of bone and antler at Foshigarry and Bac Mhic Connain, two Iron Age sites on North Uist, Western Isles”. in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland , 124, 189-231. Available here.
    While a little early for the Early Medieval, this paper is an excellent discussion of the use of bone and antler by a culture that had an abundance of skeletal material but little spare metal or wood.
  • Hamerow, H., (ed) 2013. “Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History”
    • Riddler, I., & trzaska-Nartowski, N., “Lundenwic and the Middle Saxon worked Bone Interlude” Available here.
      Discusses the temporary Middle Saxon shift to using bone instead of antler (with particular reference to combs)
  • Hawthorne, J. G., & Stanley-Smith, C., 1979. “On Divers Arts: The Foremost Medieval Treatise on Painting, Glassmaking and Metelwork” ISBN: 0486237842
    While this is primarily written for painters and metalworkers, there are a few interesting sections on dyeing bone and ivory.
  • Leahy, K., 2003. “Anglo Saxon Crafts” ISBN: 0752429043
    Full of various tools for different crafts, but includes a specific chapter on bone and antler working as well.
  • Lewis, C.P., 1997. “Haskins Society Journal 9”
    • Szabo, V.E., “The use of Whales in Early Medieval Britain”.
      Discusses the utilisation and hunting of whales in Saxon Britain.
  • Lietha, E., 1997. “Ben och hornhantverket vid Bottarve/Nymans i Fröjel Socken”. Available here.
    Swedish. A discussion of the bone and antler craft around Bottarve/Nymans district in the Fröjel parish of Gotland.
  • Owen-Crocker, G.,& Hyer, M.C., 2011.  “The Material Culture of Daily Living in Anglo-Saxon England” ISBN: 9780859898430
    • Riddler, I., & Trzaska-Nartowski, N., 2011. “Chanting Upon a Dunghill: Working Skeletal Materials in Anglo-Saxon England”
      This paper looks at the development of bone working in Anglo-Saxon England and what the variation in artefacts and production models can tell us about the craftspeople.
  • Riddler, I., (ed) 2003. “Materials of Manufacture: The choice of materials in the working of bone and antler in northern and central Europe during the first millennium AD” ISBN: 184171559X
    • Riddler, I., “A Lesser Material: the Working of Roe Deer Antler in Anglo-Saxon England”
      Looks at the limited working of Roe Deer antler and what the few are that it was used for.
    • Bourdillon, J.,”Bias from Boneworking at Middle Saxon Hamwix, Southampton, England”
      Discusses the make-up of the waste assemblage and what it can reveal about the various bones used.
    • Riddler, I. & Traska-Nartowski, N., “Late Saxon Worked Antler Waste from Holy Rood, Southampton, (SOU106)”
      An interesting study of a small waste assemblage and what it contains, now it differs from similar assemblages and what it can tell us.
  • Smith, C.S., 1974. Mappae Clavicula: A Little Key to the World of Medieval Techniques. ISBN: 0871696444.
    Details all sorts of recipes and techniques for crafters, including some for dyeing bone, antler and horn.

General information on archaeological skeletal material

In addition to the following books, most major archaeological excavations also have a zooarchaeological report that details the assemblages of bones generated in the past. While they don’t also contain useful information for a boneworker directly, it never does any harm to have a fuller understanding of the general conditions of preservation and such for archaeological skeletal materials when you are recreating artefacts from them.

  • O’Connor, T. P., 2000. “The Archaeology of Animal Bones” ISBN: 0750935243
    A good background to the archaeological approach towards animals bones as well as giving a basic grounding in the materials.
  • Rijkelijkhuzen, M., (2008. “Handleiding voor de determinatie van harde dierlijke materialen bot, gewei, ivoor, hoorn, schildpad, balein en hoef”. Available here.
    Dutch. Explains the differences between the materials and ways to identify them, e.g. simple diagrams of how antlers differ between deer species.
  • Starling, K., & Watkinson, D., 1984. “Archaeological bone, antler and ivory” ISBN: 0950415553
    • O’Connor, T.P., “On the structure, chemistry and decay of bone, antler and ivory” Available here.
      An interesting paper that goes beyond just the biological composition of the skeletal materials and explains how they decay over time and why artefacts may be more likely to survive than food waste assemblages.

Last updated 08/08/17

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3 thoughts on “Early Medieval bone and antler working bibliography”

  1. Paul Stokes Ex rent-a-peasant retired hurt said:

    A book that I’ve currently come across for identifying different natural materials is:-
    Locke, M. 2013. “Bone, Ivory, and Horn: Identifying Natural Materials” Schiffer Publications. ISBN 978-0-7643-2728-5

    • Thanks for the suggestion Paul. I had looked that that before, but was sceptical after Terry O’Connor gave it a one star review – I have been meaning to get it from the library to look at but never seem to remember.

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