Andrea L Willett wrote:More to follow when I have time. Horn helmets, composite bows, crossbows, knife/implement handles, spoons and weaving tablets.
HORN HELMETS "The qualities of lightness and toughness posessed by horn recommended it for use in Dark Age defensive helmets. These are rare and costly articles, however, and would have been worn only by the upper eschelons of society. .....
Only one helmet bearing evidence of having incorporated horn plates survives in Britain, namely the well known example found in the middle of the last century at Benty Grange, Derbyshire (Bateman 1861). ..... The helmet has recently undergone conservation and exhaustive research at the British Museum, from which the following details of its structure have emerged (Bruce-Mitford and Luscombe 1974). It consists of an iron framework based on a horizontal brow band 25mm wide and 1-2mm thick. From this brow band rises an openwork crown of which the two principal members are arranged at right angles to one another: one of them projects at the back to form a curved neck guard and at the front (where it had an applied silver cross) to form a nasal; the other projects at either side over the ears, the extensions perhaps originally carrying ear-protectors or anchorages for cheek pieces. The quadrants formed by these major strips were each subdivided by a narrower tapering iron band, also running from the brow band to the crest. On the inside of this framework would have been a cap of cloth or, more probably, of leather, while the outside it was covered with strips of horn. Traces of these strips survive as a mineralised pattern on the outer surface of the iron strips, the pattern reproducing the structure of fine parallel lines established above (p. 20) as being typical of horn. The horn has clearly been applied as a series of riveted plates , softened and bent into shape, with the 'grain' of each arranged obliquely to the iron framework and at right angles to that of the adjacent plate, resulting in a chevron pattern visible in the corrosion products. The junctions between the plates, marked by a small ridge of corrosion along the centre of the iron bands, were covered with a strip were covered with strips of horn, cut to the same width as the underlying iron bands and fixed to them with silvered rivets. Impressions detected in the corrosion products on the neck guard suggest that further horn plates were fixed between it and the ear pieces to give additional protection. The frame of the helmet was surmounted by a bronze crest in the form of a boar. A date in the latter half of the seventh century would seem to be appropriate.
An excellent parallel for this helmet comes from the grave of a princely youth found under Cloogne Cathedral, dating from the sixth century (Doppelfeld 1964). In this instance the helmet was thought to have been constructed as follows. First of all, a stiff leather skull-cap was made, either in one piece or from a series of wedge-shaped panels, probably in a mould. Twelve strips of horn were then cut as sectors of a single circle; for each of these a corresponding but slightly oversize leather lining was cut. A brow band of horn was mounted on the skull-cap and the leather-lined horn plates were glued to it, with a strong leather disc applied to the crown. The assembly was then stitched firmly together, using, at least in parts, bronze wires which passed through the leather edgings of the horn plates. Strips of bronze were then applied to the helmet, one passing around the outside of the horn brow band and the others arranged radially to cover the joints between the horn plates, terminating under a finial on top. A mail neck-guard and a pair of cheek-pieces were finally suspended from the rim.
The richness of the Cologne burial serves to emphasise the rarity of these helmets. To describe it as a 'child's version of the Spangenhelm
' (Lasko 1971), with (presumably) the implication that being constructed of horn rather than sheet metal it should be considered as little more than a toy, seems misleading. Bearing in mind the evidence of the Benty Grange helmet, it is more appropriate to see the Cologne helmet (for all that it was made for a child) as a miniature version of an adult type and not as a useless substitute. The work of fracture for horn has been calculated at an impressively high value, and it would clearly have been quite effective in this role."
COMPOSITE BOWS "..... Strong strips of cattle horn were fixed with a suitable resiliant animal glue to the belly of the bow (that is, the surface of the bow facing the archer when in use); these strips were thickest and strongest towarsds the grip, gradually thinning out until they terminated at the elbows."
"While the horn strips clearly represent the most vital element in the composite bow to be made of the materials under review, pre-medieval examples seem not to have survived. Only one bow incorporating horn has so far been noted and nothing of certainty can be said about its age; this example, said to have been formed from a single horn, was found in the Fens between Ely and Waterbeach around the middle of last century; the only details published, apart from the above, are that it was 1.08m long and was broken at one end (Archaeological Journal
13, 412; 14, 284; 27, 76)."
CROSSBOWS "As already mentioned, most medieval crossbows found in northern Europe would have had bows of the composite structure described above, incorporating horn springs and, perhaps, bone or antler splints forming the nocks."
More to follow when I have time. Knife/implement handles, spoons and weaving tablets.