Norfolk

Norfolk silver 'cotton bud' reveals Medieval hygiene habits

  • 29 April 2014
  • From the section Norfolk
Medieval silver ear scoop
The scoop was inserted back into its protective sheath so it could be used as a handle

The Medieval equivalent of a cotton bud has been declared treasure after being found in Norfolk.

The 28mm "ear scoop" and sheath handle was discovered by a metal detector enthusiast in Fincham.

The "toilet implement" was among a number of items to appear at a treasure inquest in King's Lynn on Monday.

The scoop "was probably used very much as we would use a cotton bud today," said Erica Darch, a finds officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

"Cosmetic sets and toilet implements are known from the Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval period and their modern equivalents can be found in most bathrooms today," she said.

"Individual tools included tweezers, toothpicks, nail cleaners and ear scoops and show that people in the Medieval period could be as concerned with details of their personal appearance as we are."

The hearing also featured an early Anglo-Saxon gold and garnet stud found in Swaffham and a hoard of 17 pieces of late Bronze Age metalwork.

Early Anglo-Saxon gold and garnet cloisonné circular domed object
The early Anglo-Saxon gold and garnet decorated domed object is thought to possibly be a scabbard-button
Bronze Age socketed axe head
The Bronze Age hoard of metalwork included a number of socketed axe heads

The metalwork can be interpreted as "hoards of valuable objects hidden for safekeeping by an individual who was then unable to return for them", or as "hoards of scrap destined to be melted down and reused," said Ms Darch.

"However, many hoards contain objects which were clearly never used but were then deliberately broken and bent, with bits of objects stuffed into the sockets of other objects putting them beyond use.

"This seems so strange to our modern eyes that it's hard not to interpret this as ritual activity, although axe heads and swords were also utilitarian tools."

Medieval or post-medieval silver couching needle or 'lawyers bodkin
The coroner also ruled on a Medieval or post-medieval silver couching needle

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