eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1997
Archaeology cover
Estonian Journal of Archaeology
ISSN 1736-7484 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-2933 (Print)


Full article in PDF format |

Heidi Luik, Jüri Peets, John Ljungkvist, Liina Maldre, Reet Maldre, Raili Allmäe, Mariana Muñoz-Rodríguez, Krista McGrath, Camilla Speller, Steven Ashby


In 2008 and 2010, two partly destroyed ship burials were discovered near Salme on the island of Saaremaa. During the archaeological excavations, at least 41 wholly or partially preserved skeletons were discovered, and a large number of artefacts were found, including a dozen single-sided antler combs. On the basis of the finds, as well as radiocarbon dating, the ship burials were dated to the Pre-Viking Period, while both the isotopic and archaeological evidence point towards central Sweden as the most probable origin of the buried individuals.
The combs from Salme have features that are generally consistent with the 8th century, with the closest parallels coming from the Mälar region of central Sweden. According to ZooMS and aDNA analyses, they are made of elk (Alces alces) and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) antler. Elk inhabited the Mälar region, but reindeer antler had its origin in more northern regions. Most combs were clearly manufactured with great skill, and finished with care, though some details indicate differences in the skills of comb makers.


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