Plane Iron or Sámi Hide Scraper? A Puzzling Edge Tool from the Iron Age
This article addresses the function, use and ethnic affiliation of small iron edge tools of type Rygh 416 (reproduced by O. Rygh in Norske Oldsager in 1885). These are known from many excavated graves and settlement sites especially in Mid-Scandinavia, mainly dating from the Migration and Merovingian Periods (fifth/sixth–eighth centuries AD), but also from at least two places further to the south: the centres for shipbuilding, trade and crafts at Lundeborg on Funen and Paviken on Gotland. The author rejects the possibility that this kind of tool was used as a hide scraper, with a transverse shaft of wood, as recently proposed. Several characteristics of the edge tools found, together with their find contexts, strongly conflict with this notion. Instead the author adheres to the traditional opinion that it is probably a matter of a North-European type of plane iron, although no complete plane with such an iron has been found so far. Possible applications may have been the manufacture of ships at places such as Lundeborg and Paviken, and skis and sledges in Mid-Scandinavia.
Arguments are also put forward rejecting another conclusion drawn in recent research, namely that this kind of tool represents a specific Sámi material culture. The tool is in fact known from a number of disparate milieus. Thus, it is likely to have been used across ethnic barriers – in so far it is possible to speak about such barriers in Scandinavia during the period in question.
2016. Vol. 15, 63-89 p.