The Viking Age was a world very different to our own: a world of violence and magic, swords and slaves. However, there was of course a much more ordinary, everyday side to life. People made things and traded them; they tended crops and livestock; they cooked and looked after their homes; they drank, gambled and went to market. Much has been written about key historical events in the Viking period, but it is time to take a closer look at the day-to-day activities of ordinary people. This book is about life in the Viking Age, explored through one of its most important and recognisable artefacts - the hair comb. While objects such as swords and battleaxes may be more familiar to us, these tell us little about daily life in the Viking Age. The comb is different; it was a familiar object in Norse society, while simultaneously holding great symbolic power. The Viking Age comb still holds a fascination today, not merely for its technical sophistication or aesthetic appeal, but for what it can tell us about the people who made and traded combs, and those who lived and died with them. The comb repeatedly intersects with quotidian existence and provides an invaluable window into a distant society and culture.
Dr Steven Ashby is a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York and specialises in the Viking Age. He has a particular interest in the organisation of craft and industry, and in the rituals of day-to-day life, and publishes numerous articles on the subject. He lives in York.