Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More on Lucets

In my long essay on lucets, I mentioned the "crudely shaped pieces of bone" found in the Viking levels of Coppergate that some people believe were used as lucets. 

Penelope Walton Rogers briefly discusses these finds in Textile Production at Coppergate. Having looked at them and observed that the narrow, sharp-pointed ones resemble the nose bones of cattle, she expresses the opinion that those artifacts likely were not used as lucets.  She particularly notes that these finds bear no signs of wear from the rubbing of string, as one would expect from a cord-making device (especially one with thin bone prongs such as most of the Coppergate "lucet" finds):

There are fourteen two-pronged bone objects of the type sometimes identified as lucets for braid-making from Anglo-Scandinavian and medieval levels at Coppergate (A.G. MacGregor et al: AY 17 in prep.). These are the nasal bones of cattle, which have been chopped or broken from the skull (S. O’Connor, pers. comm.). They have little sign of any modification and there is no wear around the prongs to suggest use in braid-making. (p. 1790)

On the other hand, there are two other "lucet" shaped objects at Coppergate; a "Y-shaped tine" which I'm not familiar with, and one which has decorative carving on it, which I think I've seen but cannot find an image of (I'll add a link once I find one).  Ms. Rogers observes that the function of these items, which, unlike the pointed bones, were clearly fashioned for some purpose, is unclear. However, she also notes that despite the obvious existence of two-pronged devices that can be used to make cord, there have been no such cord finds in Anglo-Scandinavian graves. and "the use of any of these tools in the textile crafts is far from proven." (Id.)

Although Ms. Rogers herself may be wrong, I am pleased to learn that a scholar who has looked at the so-called Coppergate lucets has presented reasonable arguments against the proposition that the flimsy, sharp bone objects found at Coppergate are lucets.  As I've said before,  I believe there is a much better case for the tube-shaped two-pronged devices, such as the one found at Barshalder, being a Viking equivalent of a "lucet", but apparently no such items turned up at Coppergate.  I wish they had--it would be interesting to see what Ms. Rogers made of them. 


  1. Do yo mean this one? http://www.muninn.dds.nl/lucet/viking-lucet.gif

    I hope this helps!

  2. Thanks, but that's not the one. That one keeps popping up everywhere. The one I'm thinking of is similarly shaped, but has a crude bit of interlace carved into the side.