Ivory Lice Comb found on 1782 shipwreck

This lice comb was found in a concretion from the Storm shipwreck, a 1782 American Revolutionary War shipwreck excavated by St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum archaeologists and students from 2009-2017.

View other artifacts from this shipwreck in WRECKED!, an exhibit in the Keepers’ House at the Museum. Read more about the shipwreck here.

View artifacts in the WRECKED! exhibit which were found on the 1782 American Revolutionary War shipwreck. This photo shows artifacts in the the basement of the Keepers’ House.

Believed to be made of ivory, the lice comb had salts removed before being treated with a reinforcing agent. This was completed by conservators on site at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. Lice combs were important in early shipboard life as lice were extremely common.

It was determined that the wreck carried loyalists or Tories evacuating Charles Town, SC and fleeing to British East Florida, which was still loyal to the crown. As many as 16 ships from Charleston (the name of Charles Town today)wrecked on the St. Augustine sandbar on New Year’s Eve, December 1782.

As British loyalists ran in fear of the victorious Americans, many lost everything they had to the sea. Excavation recovered hundreds of artifacts but we do not always know what they are right away. Archaeologists use x-ray analysis to gain a clearer picture of objects locked inside odd, lumpy rocks retrieved from the seabed.

Visit staugustinelighthouse.org for more details.