Horn Use in the Middle Ages

To judge from the archaeological materials we have, such as old cores, illustrative evidence, and a very limited number of physical remains, it is clear that horn was used in the Middle Ages for manufacturing some items. Horn was used for many purposes, including the stereotypical drinking horns, and blast (or "blowing", "winding" or Hunting) horns. Since horn can be softened and made malleable, and be molded into various shapes, such as spoons, scoops, combs, and filler on helmets, boxes and caskets. Horn was also used to make lantern panes, window panes, cups, knife handles, ink wells, coin holders, containers of all kinds, axle-grease holders, grain holders, Cupping Horns, horn nocks on the ends of bows, and even stripping across the backs of bows. Unfortunately, because of the relatively "soft" nature of horn, archaeological remains do not survive as well as do bone or wood artifacts. Therefore, while horn *might* have been made into buttons, bracelets, shoehorns and so forth, the evidence appears to suggest that the widest potential uses of horn were probably not explored until the 19th century.

Although the Worshipful Company of Horners was not incorporated in England until 1634, by that time a clear division between different aspects of trade had already emerged. On the one hand were the horn pressers, who prepared the "green" horns and made the middle portions into plates; while on the other were the moulders and turners who used the cast off ends and tips of the to make other things.


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Using and working with Horn - Horn Use in the Middle Ages. Copyright 1996, 2001 I. Marc Carlson
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