Warring kingdoms: objects

Warring kingdoms displayDespite the apparently turbulent times recorded in the history of this period, daily life went on much as usual. These more personal objects show how people dressed and activities such as cloth making and going to market.

Many of the finds in this case are from Eldbotle and are on display for the first time. Picture well-dressed villagers in hand made clothes, fastened with belts and pins heading to markets in Dunbar, Haddington or North Berwick – maybe by horse!

From fleece to cloth

Spindle whorls and beaterStone spindle whorls
Wool was still spun at home using drop spindles until the 1400s. Wool, fleeces and hides were exported to England and Europe from Dunbar harbour. (label text) Spindle whorls from Eldbotle, 13th–14th century. 

Bone pin beater
Used in weaving to push up the threads and untangle knots. Eldbotle, 10th–14th century.

The pin beater is made from a leg bone of a cow or horse. It is used in weaving to push up the weft (horizontal threads) and untangle knots on a vertical loom. 

Copper alloy thimbleCopper alloy thimble
This thimble was found during excavations at John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar and dates to the 13th–15th centuries. Objects made from copper alloy usually belonged to more wealthy people. The copper alloy spur was found at the same place – perhaps this was the home of a well dressed knight? 

Horse fittings

Copper alloy spurHorses were ridden by wealthier people and of course knights! 

Copper alloy spur and rowel
The spur was found during excavations at John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar by Headland Archaeology in 2002 and dates to the 14th–15th century. 


Horse harness buckleIron buckle
Part of horse harness, Eldbotle 13th–15th century. 




Personal Grooming 

Viking style antler comb
This distinctive Viking-style decoration dates the comb to the 10th–11th centuries. Similar combs were found in Viking York.

Horn comb“People often ask me what the most exciting thing I have found is, and I always say this comb. It is all the more exciting because it was millimetres away from being destroyed by the digger. I like the fact that it is a very personal object that someone would have used every day, and it looks almost as beautiful now as it did then.” Jenni Morrison, Site Director, Eldbotle excavations 

“I think this is a beautifully made and wonderfully decorated object. The effect of modern mass production means that the average machine-made comb that any one person owns will be identical to all the rest. Not so in the medieval world, where such items were lovingly hand crafted with time, effort and skill.” Thomas Small, Freelance illustrator. Tom illustrated the comb and many of the other finds from the Eldbotle excavations. 

Iron beard shearsIron shears
For hair or beard trimming. These would have been owned by a wealthier person and were found at Eldbotle. 13th–14th century.



The Northumbrian settlement at Castle Park, Dunbar was a craft production centre and many finely-made items Belt buckleswere found there. These are some of the personal items. Buckles were used to fasten belts or girdles worn by both men and women.

Copper alloy buckles
The buckles were found at Eldbotle and Castle Park, Dunbar and date to the 12th–15th centuries.

Copper alloy and bone pins
These were found at Castle Park in Dunbar during excavations between 1989 and 1991. As well as the site of the medieval castle, it was also the site of an earlier Northumbrian fort, built on top of an Iron Age hillfort! They date to the 7th – 8th centuries.

copper ally and bone pinsThe Northumbrian fort was a centre for crafts such as lead and copper making and producing cloth. There were large stone-lined pits that were used for preparing flax for weaving or for tanning animal hides, and many objects used in weaving such as needles, loom weights and spindle whorls. Personal items such as these pins were also found along with buckles, combs and rings.

Pottery pieces
Pottery piecesIt’s unusual to find whole pots on a dig but these are parts of green-glazed jugs and jars that were used for cooking and storage in the 13th–15th centuries.

Very fine pottery called Scottish White Gritty Ware was made at Colstoun near Haddington in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Weighing stone
This is a 6-pound medieval weight. It would be hung on a balance scale to weigh sacks of grain at market. The underside is worn, to make the weight exact.

Weighing stone‘This weight confused us at first as with its underside worn smooth it looks a lot like a small curling stone, missing its handle. But it was its weight that brought inspiration. It weighs 2.616kg. The definition of ounces and pounds has changed over the centuries and medieval measures were a little different from their imperial equivalents. A 14th-century Scottish ounce was the equivalent of 29.14g, with 15 ounces to the pound and 15 pound to a stone. By this definition the stone weighs 89.77 ounces or 5.98 pounds. This makes for a pretty convincing 6 pound weight, and is about as accurate as medieval weights get. The hook would allow it to be hung from a balance scale, probably one of a set of such weights, to weigh agricultural produce such as sacks of grain. The worn underside I think might have been due to “fine tuning” the weight. After the rough size and shape of the weight had been pecked out of stone and the iron hook set into the top with lead, the base of the stone would then have had to be ground down to reach the desired weight. I remember this stone because of the excitement I felt when I first did the maths and it instantly changed from a bit of a mystery object to an obvious practical tool.’ Julie Franklin, Finds Manager, Headland Archaeology


Tron Weight

Tron weight

Tron weight

This ‘Hot Cross Bun’ stone was found in the Museum Stores, but we don’t know where it is from. 

 At first we thought it might be a grave marker because of the cross.  Research has shown it is probably a weight.  The cross is where the rope would have held it. 

 It was probably used on a medieval market Tron for weighing large items as it is very heavy!

One thought on “Warring kingdoms: objects”

  1. chris mcginley says:

    Medieval weights

    I found a similar stone in my garden – flat bottomed with a ring set in lead. It is exactly 15 pounds in weight. Could it be a medieval stone stone!?

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