Before I go on to describe another, less definitive, effort at anthropological analogy, I must put in a disclaimer. The rope belt the woman is wearing in my drawing has almost no historical or archaeological basis. This drawing was created originally to illustrate the story of Rahab and the two spies from Joshua, chapter 2. In the story, Rahab hangs a "scarlet cord" in the window of her house. This seemed like an odd thing to have readily available. Few of us today simply keep colored rope around the house. That the cord was actually a belt seemed the most plausible explanation to me. Belts were occasionally depicted on ancient portrayals of Canaanites, so I went ahead and drew her with one. But it's neither certain nor typical.
In her excavation of the tombs at Jericho, Kathleen Kenyon says that "very many wooden combs were found. Many were in baskets with other toilet [cosmetic] equipment. . . . The combs presumably had their functional use, but it is also clear from their association with the bodies that they had an ornamental use as well. . . . In at least 9 cases there were 1 or more combs by the skulls, which had presumably been stuck in the hair of the head. In three other cases of combs associated with intact skeletons, the combs lie low on the body, and unless they had been placed in a fold in the garment, they must have been in long plaits of hair." Excavations at Jericho - Volume II Tombs Excavated in 1955-8, London, 1965, page 574.
It certainly did seem that these were ornamental. No one would need twelve combs just to keep their hair from getting matted. Ornamental combs are not an unusual concept. I immediately thought of the Spanish mantilla, for instance. I soon found examples of combs being worn in the hair from the United States, Vietnam, Samoa, New Zealand, Micronesia, and ancient Sumer.
However, rarely was more than one comb worn at once. Also, to hold the hair, these combs typically had very long, generally coarse teeth. Not so the combs from Jericho:
The style of these combs hinted at a functional use. According to Mumcuoglu and Zias' article, "How the Ancients De-Loused Themselves" (Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 1989), fine-toothed combs were used for removal of head lice and their eggs. From their study, a comb with 3-5 teeth per cm was used for combing, and one with 5-15 teeth per cm was used for louse removal.
In spite of the difficult craftsmanship required to make such fine teeth in a wooden comb, the Jericho combs have 7-10 teeth per cm, making them candidates for louse removal. So, maybe they were functional after all, or at least culturally descended from functional combs.
But how could they have been worn? Oddly enough, my search led me once again to central India:
I even found a description of the reason for this custom:
"In Ghotuls, the youth dormitory of the tribals, boys used to gifts [give] gorgeously carved wooden combs as tokens of love to the girls of their choice. A girl used to display all the combs given to her by the boys, which also conveys how popular the girl is in the society. After getting married she used to return back all the combs and keep only the one given to her by her husband." http://www.dsource.in/gallery/gallery-0299/index.html
This is the sort of wonderfully detailed, romantically suggestive story that it would be very easy to take and run with. Was Burial D, from Jericho Tomb H22, with her (note that on the basis of this story, I'm already assuming that this is a woman) twelve combs, once the sweetheart of the city, who when she died, left a dozen broken hearts behind her? I'm afraid that I've run far ahead of the evidence.
Seriously, though, what am I to do as a responsible artist? I really do not know for sure exactly how these combs were worn, so I should not illustrate them. On the other hand, they are a unique and obviously important part of the Jerichoan's culture, and should therefore be illustrated to the best of my ability.
Is historical accuracy the avoidance of potential mistakes, or the portrayal of all possible aspects of a culture, based on the best evidence? More on this later.
Anthropological analogy has helped give me some ideas of what to draw, but no firm answers.
On a lighter note, I do know what a definite abuse of the anthropological analogy might be. If you are a young man, impressed by the love tokens of the Bastar people of India, thinking of the lice-combs of Jericho, it would be a grave mistake to give your best girl one of these: