Doll’s comb

Doll’s comb


1st-2nd c. AD

Empúries (L’Escala – Alt Empordà)

This small fragment of a comb made of bone arrived at the museum on 31 December 1901. It was part of a set of objects from Empúries purchased from Josep Pujol and other property owners in the L’Escala and Sant Martí d ‘Empúries area.

The countryside around Empúries was subject to constant looting in those years prior to the official excavation campaigns that began in 1908. Years of continuous pillaging had seriously affected particularly the necropolises that surrounded the town. This is the origin of our museum’s important Empúries collection. The Monuments Commission’s purchases from looters were aimed at saving the objects for society, but at the same time they encouraged further looting.

The comb probably came from one of the town’s Roman necropolises. Its small size, barely 3.5 cm from tip to tip (which would have been the width of the comb), indicates that it was not a utilitarian object, but a toy for combing dolls’ hair.

Given the lack of context, we will use a spectacular reference to Rome itself to place it in the marble sarcophagus of Crepereia Tryphaena, a young Roman woman who died aged between 17 and 19, shortly before her wedding. It was discovered intact in 1889. The deceased was buried with her jewellery, an articulated ivory doll (also with its own jewellery) and a box containing her ashes. Among the various objects were two small ivory combs. The burial has been dated to the middle of the second century AD. Our comb can also be placed in the early centuries of the empire, 1st-2nd century AD, without being able to be more precise.

Copyright © 2024 Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya Departament de Cultura - Generalitat de Catalunya