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A Frankish Puer

A young Frankish warrior?

Here is a depiction of a warrior from a (possibly late) seventh-century stone at Niederdollendorf in Nordrhein-Westfalen.  The depiction of his scramasax is very lifelike even if the rest is very stylised.  Quite what the object to the figure’s lower left is is anyone’s guess.  It might be a shield, or an amulet, or a flask of some sort.  The figure is sometimes depicted as Woden but on no especially good grounds.

What interests me more is the combination of the scramasax and the act of combing his hair.  In some Alamannic cemeteries to the south-east of this area, such as Schretzheim, scramasaxes and combs are characteristically found in the graves of males under the age of thirty.  Full sets of weaponry (shield, spear and sword) are usually found with those between the ages of thirty and fifty.  What I suggest we have here is a depiction of a puer, a young warrior, usually in the apprenticeship of an older man, maybe a royal official but, by this date especially, any powerful aristocrat.  Study of the textual evidence suggests that pueri were characteristically aged between fifteen and their late twenties.  It was at this age that, if one performed one’s duties well, one established a position in society, and on leaving the lord’s service, received lands, married and started a household of one’s own.  It’s not hard to see why combing one’s long, flowing locks might be a sign associated with this age-group.  Vanity and violence: timeless characteristics of certain young men?

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