A beautiful Iron Age comb unearthed in Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire,by metal-detector enthusiast Russell Peach, is one of the most notable of nearly 60,000 archaeological finds reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme by members of the public during 2006. The copper-alloy comb dates from between AD 25 and 75, and is decorated with an ‘armadillo’ motif, and cross hatched decoration similar to that found on such spectacular Late Iron Age mirrors as the ones from Birdlip, Gloucestershire, and Desborough, Northamptonshire.
Another notable find reported this year is a copper-alloy Roman horse and rider figure (left) found in Cambridgeshire. Ironically, neither of these counts as ‘Treasure’ under the definition in the Treasure Act, which technically requires the reporting only of finds that contain precious metal, but it is a mark of the success of the scheme that finders are voluntarily reporting anything they discover that might be of archaeological interest.
The British Museum described the horse and rider figurine as ‘the most artistically distinctive and accomplished example so far discovered’. Dating from the 3rd or 4th century AD and extremely well preserved, it is thought to have been a votive figure from a rural shrine or temple.
The gait of the horse and its pricked ears suggest that the animal is alert and paying direct attention to the commands being given by the rider, in turn a reflection of the high level of horsemanship in Roman Britain, which might itself reflect an Iron Age tradition: after all, that comb, big enough to hold in the fist and equipped with robust prongs, was probably not used for personal grooming, but as a curry comb for combing horse’s manes and tails.
(Photo: Portable Antiquities Scheme)