Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Horn (part 1)


`Swift is the hare, cunning is the fox,
Why should not the little calf grow up to be an ox,
to get his own living midst the briars and thorns,
and die like his daddy with a GREAT PAIR OF HORNS.`
(Song of the Dorset Ooser).

Rebecca Davies

My name is Rebecca Davies and I am a graduate in Archaeology.
I have a few vague specialities in study, but in many ways I am fascinated by everything.  For my dissertation I had read about Anglo Saxon helmets.  Most were similar to the famous Sutton Hoo Helmet.
But the one that caught my attention was the Benty Grange Helmet.

Benty Grange Helmet

This was constructed rather differently to the predictable spangenhelm; it was an iron framework - the outside had deteriorated, but was found to be originally heat shaped cows horn. Yes, this was a plastic helmet which raises a lot of questions; Why was horn used?  Was it because the owner was not rich and so couldn’t afford iron? Was it stronger than metal? Lighter?  The existence of this artefact makes us see material science in a different way - which is what plastics are about. And, it presented a challenge to my understanding.  

First of all I had to learn about horn, the sourcing, working, using and its archaeology.  It turns out to be a material that doesn’t preserve well at all, and so we are also searching for secondary records such as early writings.  At first I was doubtful as to my choice of study...it was pretty obscure.  But, with perseverance, I located sources and talked to people.

I fondly remember a fun afternoon spent in MoDiP, I got to meet Rufus!  My Dissertation was completed and I got a First for it.

Looking back it seems so amateurish, I have learned so much more about the subject now.  These Blog pages are a way to share my understanding. Nowadays it feels like I am an authority on Horn!  I do not know how this happened.
In this Blog I will talk a little about horn, its archaeology, the literature on the craft, current practitioners, and artefacts in the Worshipful Company of Horners collection, artefacts I own, and maybe ones I would like to own…Maybe I will even learn more about horn lore.

Rebecca Davies, Guest Blogger.

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