bone comb missing several teeth
Bone comb

Over 40 bone combs have been found at Jamestown, with the majority being recovered from early fort period features including 16 from the first well. Some bone and ivory combs in the 17th century were elaborately carved. These expensive items were used and displayed to highlight one’s status, and decorated combs were even given as gifts between lovers. However, all of the combs found at Jamestown are plain, suggesting that they were utilitarian objects that were owned by both high status gentlemen and lower class settlers. The combs were carved from one piece of bone and most, like the one pictured above, are double-sided with teeth of two different thicknesses. Sometimes called H-combs (due to their shape) or nit-combs (due to their use), these personal hygiene items were used for both hair and beards to remove lice, fleas, or nits.

Relatively common finds in England, the majority of bone combs found at Jamestown were probably brought over with the first colonists to arrive in Virginia. The fact that they are not found as commonly in later contexts suggests that as the settlement became more stable and death rates declined, combs were simply not thrown away as regularly.