Treasure, mystery and a patchwork historical narrative to place the evidence alongside. He died in about 616 ce. Here, the ship became the last resting place of a king or a great warrior. Helmet, early seventh century. The site consists of 19 or 20 burial mounds that were most likely formed between 625 and 670 AD. Sutton Hoo may be the burial site of Redwald, a powerful Saxon king who ruled East Anglia and possibly some areas farther north in the late 500s and early 600s. A whetstone (sharpening stone) was also placed along this wall. It was probably Redwald who was buried in the great Sutton Hoo ship burial. Finds from Mound 17. The most famous Anglo-Saxon treasures in the Museum come from the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk. And all this is set within a beautiful 255-acre estate, offering walks with incredible views, and even an Edwardian house to explore should the weather take an inclement turn. The movie, titled The Dig, stars Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan and Lily James and revolves around the discovery of the Sutton Hoo ship burial in 1939 in Suffolk. 1 at Sutton Hoo, they found the great ancient ship and since then, the grave is known as “The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial”. 'It's this effort, coupled with the quality and the quantity of the grave goods from all over the known world at that time, that has made people think that an Anglo-Saxon king may have been buried here. You can see here that the chamber was housed within the heart of the ship, at its lowest point. The Sutton Hoo purse lid. It's a piece of truly breathtaking artistry, functional and beautiful, with a vaulted cap and deep cheek-pieces. This shows he must have died after that date. It was a long, smooth bar carved with human faces at either end and topped with the model of a stag. Practice: Sutton Hoo ship burial (quiz) Fibulae. Test your knowledge of Early Medieval art. Sutton Hoo is a burial hill in the English county of Suffolk. While the majority of Sutton Hoo’s treasures are housed at the British Museum, the site itself is certainly well worth visiting. Here are some facts about Sutton Hoo, the burial site of an Anglo-Saxon king. This unknown figure was buried with his vast treasure, undisturbed until the site was excavated, initially by the landowner, Edith Pretty, in 1939. Unfortunately, we'll never know the true identity of the grave's inhabitant. On top of this lay a huge silver platter with stamps showing that it was made in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire (today's Istanbul). One inscription is messier than the other, and may have been added later by someone who wasn't familiar with Greek. Thomas Robjent. More than a grave, it was a spectacular funerary monument on an epic scale: a 27m (88.6ft) long ship with a burial chamber full of dazzling riches. So the helmet found in the burial is usually taken as evidence that it belonged to one of the Kings of East Anglia. You can take the opportunity to walk around and explore the burial mounds, as well as check out the large visitor centre, which features permanent and temporary exhibitions. The centre houses exquisite replicas of many of the most important finds, made using traditional methods, plus a number of original pieces. Sutton Hoo ship burial. It was solved by chemical analysis of the sand below the burial chamber, which showed high phosphate levels. This was clearly the grave of an important person – someone meant to be remembered. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Alex Burghart looks back to the discovery of the fabulous Anglo-Saxon burial at Sutton Hoo, and ponders how far we've come in our knowledge of the period since 1939. Sue Brunning, Curator of Early Medieval European Collections, says the burial was the final resting place of someone who had died in the early seventh century, during the Anglo-Saxon period – a time before 'England' existed. Amateur archaeologist Basil Brown famously made the discovery of a lifetime back in 1939, when he brushed away the Suffolk soil and revealed the richest intact early medieval grave in Europe. He became a Christian, but was still keen on pagan ways. Up Next. On top of this lay a huge silver platter with stamps showing that it was made in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire (today's Istanbul). Many of the pieces would have been produced by master craftsmen. An enormous wooden shield was placed by the chamber's west wall (the head end of the burial). He may have converted to the new religion, as all his successors were Christian. Everything you ever wanted to know about... proven vital in our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants, Christmas carols: the history behind 9 festive favourites, Fishing for gold: how eels powered the medieval economy, Alfred the Great and Edington: how the King of Wessex became great, King Arthur: five men who made up the legendary Dark Ages king. Here's a quick guide to the site from BBC History Revealed. 'These wear patterns on the sword were made by this person's actual hand. Ready to teach. Drinking vessels and folded textiles were placed on the lower legs, and near the feet was a pile of clothing and metal objects, including leather shoes, a silver bowl and a unique coat of mail armour. The Sutton Hoo burial ground in East Anglia, England, provides vivid evidence for attitudes to death immediately before the conversion of an English community to Christianity in the seventh century C.E. Below these were two silver spoons, also probably Byzantine, their handles inscribed in Greek. Ultimately, Brunning doesn't think the identity is so important: 'Modern science may have solved the mystery about whether someone was buried here at all. She continues: While certainly the most dramatic find, the ship burial at what is known as Mound One is just one of 18 burial mounds at the site. But who was buried here, and why? The official website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine, Save over 50% on a BBC History Magazine or BBC History Revealed gift subscription, The two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, from the 6th and 7th centuries, were an extraordinary find, with one of the highlights being an undisturbed ship burial. Sutton Hoo can claim to be Britain’s very own Valley of the Kings. But the 1939 excavation carried out by Basil Brown and the other archaeologists was done so well that its results went on to transform our understanding of this time in history, and the lives and beliefs of the people who lived then. The Medieval Europe gallery showcases many of the world's greatest medieval treasures. And what can the Sutton Hoo excavation tell us about Anglo-Saxon society? Since its discovery in 1939, the Sutton Hoo burial site has been the most important physical link to the Anglo Saxon world. Sometime around 1,400 years ago, a great ship was hauled up from the East Anglian coast to Sutton Hoo, the site of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground. Please enable JavaScript in your web browser to get the best experience. Weighing more than 400 grams, the buckle is actually a hollow box that opens at the back on a hinge beneath the loop. The iconic Sutton Hoo helmet was wrapped in cloth and laid near the left side of the dead person's head. You can unsubscribe at any time.   Wealth, and its public display, was probably used to establish status in early Anglo-Saxon society much as it is today. His name was Redwald. Some scholars say this burial is the richest ever found in northern Europe. This was very ornate, decorated with a ring of animal heads around the rim and images of a bird-of-prey and dragon. The helmet was a symbol of royal power in the early 7th Century, before kings began wearing crowns. What soon became evident was that this was no ordinary ancient cemetery. The purse lid from Sutton Hoo … Ship burials were rare in Anglo-Saxon England – probably reserved for the most important people in society – so it's likely that there was a huge funeral ceremony. Artefacts from the burial ship can be seen in the Medieval Room at the British Museum. This unknown figure was buried with his vast treasure, undisturbed until the site was excavated, initially by the landowner, Edith Pretty, in 1939. The helmet is covered in complicated imagery, including fighting and dancing warriors, and fierce creatures. China is one of the world's oldest civilisations and home to a quarter of the world's population. This information first appeared in BBC History Revealed magazine, Save over 50% on a gift subscription to their favourite history magazine. This is the period we call Anglo-Saxon and this was a burial site of a very important person. There seems to be a problem, please try again. The objects found at these and the neighbouring mounds have proven vital in our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of sixth- and seventh-century-AD East Anglia. The most likely candidate for the man who belonged to this grave is King Rædwald, a gre… They effectively chose to enshrine that left-handedness in a very visual way at the funeral. Here mysterious grassy mounds covered a number of ancient graves. War time excavations. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions and privacy policy. This spectacular gold buckle from the Sutton Hoo ship burial shows that the person commemorated there was of great importance. In 1939 archaelogists explored the largest mound and discovered a … Sutton Hoo, estate near Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, that is the site of an early medieval burial ground that includes the grave or cenotaph of an Anglo-Saxon king. There was also a large decorated purse containing 37 gold coins, three blank coins and two small ingots, which caused a reaction among archaeologists. Purse lid from the Sutton Hoo ship burial. One mainstream theory is that the burial belonged to Rædwald, King of East Anglia, who died in 624, and whose reign coincides with the dates of … Sutton Hoo is near the town of Woodbridge in Suffolk, England. The internment of a ship at Sutton Hoo represents the most impressive medieval grave to be discovered in Europe. ', Brunning extrapolates that being left-handed could have provided an advantage in battle as most combatants might be anticipating a right-handed attack. It shows that while these objects might sit quietly in a display case, they're not actually quiet objects. The find at Sutton Hoo turned out to be Europe’s largest ship burial, complete with treasure, and it ended Britain’s Dark Ages. Sutton Hoo proved otherwise. But who was buried there and what did it reveal about this period in history? The Sutton Hoo Anastasius Dish, silver, Britain, AD 491–518. Its significance to the study of Beowulf is the interesting mix of Christian and pagan practices involved in the burial that mirrors a similar mix in beliefs in the poem. England at this time was divided into a series of kingdoms and the incredible wealth displayed in this burial seemed to indicate that this was a royal burial. The year 1939 saw a rare a ray of light shine into the Dark Ages, and made people realise that the Anglo-Saxon period did not deserve that gloomy moniker. Among these was a ship burial that dates back to the edge of the VI and VII centuries.This The other grave goods also tell us a lot about the person buried there. Find out more about visiting Sutton Hoo, managed by the National Trust.   As Basil and a team of archaeologists dug deeper, they unearthed fine feasting vessels, deluxe hanging bowls, silverware from distant Byzantium, luxurious textiles, gold dress accessories set with Sri Lankan garnets and the iconic helmet with human mask. Inside the burial mound was the imprint of a decayed ship and a central chamber filled with treasures. On the other hand, perhaps the ship burial at Sutton Hoo is a literal cenotaph, an empty tomb. Each coin came from a different mint in Francia, across the English Channel, and they provide key evidence for the date of the burial, in the early seventh century. Archaeological opinion has recently leaned away from that interpretation, but there’s no way to be sure. This is the currently selected item. All feedback appreciated. In one particular grave, belonging to an important Anglo-Saxon warrior, some astonishing objects were buried, but there is little in the grave to make it clear who was buried there. Much of what we know about the Anglo-Saxons comes from graves like the one discovered at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. Metal items survived the acidic soil better than organic items like fabric and wood, but some more delicate things were preserved (including a tiny ladybird). Among many priceless goods (armor, weapons, coins, intricate gold jewelry, silver drinking horns and trinkets, textiles, Byzantine treasures and fine clothes - all coming from all over Europe – there was also the famous Sutton Hoo helmet dated to 600– 650 AD. The platter was already a century old when buried at Sutton Hoo, and reflects East Anglia's long-distance connections. The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial: A General Background and Source List. They must use them to make a judgment on who they think was buried at Sutton Hoo. Introduction: Sutton Hoo. Practice: Fibulae (quiz) Next lesson. Here, the ship became the last resting place of a king or a great warrior. 'Mourners laid the sword on the dead person's right-hand side, suggesting that's where the owner would have worn it in life. Please enter your number below. The most likely theory would seem to name the deceased as King Raedwald, an Anglo-Saxon leader who triumphed over Northumberland, but courted controversy when he erected an altar for Jesus Christ alongside one for the ‘old gods’. The discovery revolutionised our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon period and provided a lens through which to examine this fascinating era of history. This led to early speculation over whether the Sutton Hoo ship burial was actually a cenotaph – an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person whose remains are elsewhere. Sutton Hoo was in the kingdom of East Anglia and the coin dates suggest that it may be the burial of King Raedwald, who died around 625. The face mask together forms a dragon whose wings make the eyebrows and tail the moustache. But who was it? There’s also a full-size reconstruction of the burial chamber, which brings home the scale of the find. The archaeologists and landowner Edith Pretty were dumbfounded. It was the grave goods within the burial chamber that drew the most attention. 'We can't name that king for certain, but a popular candidate is Raedwald, who ruled the kingdom of East Anglia around this time in the early seventh century. In 1939 a ship was found filled with the war gear and treasure of a Heroic Age English king. The burial, one of the richest Germanic burials found in Europe, contained a ship fully equipped for the afterlife (but with no body) and threw light on the wealth and contacts of early Anglo-Saxon kings; its discovery, in 1939, was unusual because … A ship was hauled up from the river, a burial chamber was erected in the middle of it, and a stupendous collection of magnificent objects – gold and silver brooches and dishes, the sword of state, drinking horns and a lyre – was set in the burial chamber. Further excavations took place through the 1960s and into the 1990s, uncovering the richest burial ground ever to have been found in northern Europe. That's a more valuable outcome, in my view.' A nested set of ten silver bowls was placed to the right of the body. The tale of the burial’s discovery is no less dramatic. Also found within the ship was a purse containing 37 gold Merovingian (Gaulish) gold coins dating from the 620s. This site in which the ship was found is called Sutton Hoo. The ship contained a burial of significant wealth. Spanning over 700 years, this Room traces the story of Europe from 300 AD. In Mound No. Items that were found included weapons and armor, including the famous Sutton Hoo helmet, objects made of precious metals, as well as equipment used during feasts, such as drinking horns and cauldrons. Much of these artifacts can today be found in the British Museum in London. Sort by: Top Voted. It reveals a place of exquisite craftsmanship and extensive international connections, spanning Europe and beyond. After three excavations – in 1938/39, 1965/71 and 1986/92 – the Sutton Hoo burial ground continues to fascinate. Explore the many wild and wonderful depictions of animals found in the Museum's collection. He may have held power over neighbouring kingdoms too, which may have earned him a good send off.'. Sutton Hoo: a brief guide to the Anglo-Saxon burial site and its discovery. The site is important in understanding the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia and the early Angl… While the most celebrated find is an intricate ceremonial helmet, there are also pieces made of gold and embellished with gems, many of which are considered to be the best quality found in Europe from that period. Garnets line the eyebrows, but only one is backed with gold foil reflectors – perhaps a reference to the one-eyed god, Woden. 'The imagery of soaring timber halls, gleaming treasures, powerful kings and spectacular funerals in the Old English poem Beowulf could no longer be read as legends – they were reality, at least for the privileged few in early Anglo-Saxon society.'. Comparisons have been drawn between Sutton Hoo and sites in Sweden, while many point to links between the spot and the epic poem Beowulf, which opens with the ship burial of a king. There was a King of East Anglia who died some time between AD 617 and AD 631. Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, England, is the site of two early medieval cemeteries that date from the 6th to 7th centuries. Well, these questions have kept archaeologists and historians guessing ever since the site was uncovered. For more information on how we use cookies and how to manage cookies, please follow the 'Read more' link, otherwise select 'Accept and close'. The first trailer for Netflix blockbuster movie The Dig, a drama based on the discovery of the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk, has been released. It was found at the end of 1930, and probably the most significant archeological finds through the whole history of Great Britain were made there. Raedwald died in about 625, so the date is about right. AD 700 – Sutton Hoo. A source investigation exercise with students shown a number of treasures from the Sutton Hoo burial. The most famous Anglo-Saxon treasures in the Museum come from the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk. Their shape and decoration show that they came from the Byzantine Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean, during the sixth century. Thank you for subscribing to HistoryExtra, you now have unlimited access. In one particular grave, belonging to an important Anglo-Saxon warrior, some astonishing objects were buried, but there is little in the grave to make it clear who was buried there. And what can the Sutton Hoo excavation tell us about Anglo-Saxon society? In 1939, with Britain on the brink of the Second World War, Sutton Hoo landowner Edith Pretty asked local archaeologist Basil Brown to excavate the largest of several burial mounds on her estate. We use cookies to make our website work more efficiently, to provide you with more personalised services or advertising to you, and to analyse traffic on our website. But it also rewrote our understanding of a time that we had previously misunderstood. The burial chamber was laden with military equipment, textiles, and treasure of the very highest quality. Edith Pretty generously donated the finds to the museum in 1939, and those on view include the iconic helmet, a giant copy of which adorns the front of the visitor centre at Sutton Hoo. 1,400 years ago, a king or great warrior of East Anglia was laid to rest in a 90ft ship, surrounded by his extraordinary treasures. They're loud with information about the people in the past. British Museum curators have teamed up with illustrator Craig Williams to recreate how the burial chamber may have looked. The Anglo Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo. ( CC BY-SA 2.5 ) These grave goods have also allowe… Despite the lack of human remains, it's still been possible to glean personal information about the inhabitant. Between 1965-1971, archaeologists returned to Sutton Hoo to try and answer some key questions posed by the 1939 excavation and subsequent analysis. But who was it? ; The items discovered at Sutton Hoo almost certainly date from the 7th century. As an ensemble, they would have made the wearer appear majestic, and are the work of a master goldsmith with skills that modern jewellers struggle to recreate. This was clearly the grave of an important person – someone meant to be remembered. So while their identity is still a mystery to us, we can almost reach though time and touch them.'. If you subscribe to BBC History Magazine Print or Digital Editions then you can unlock 10 years’ worth of archived history material fully searchable by Topic, Location, Period and Person. October 29, 2020 at 11:25 am. Thanks! Domestic objects lay at the east end of the chamber, including wooden tubs and buckets, two small cauldrons and one very large one with an intricate iron chain that suspended it over a fire. The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial The ship at Sutton Hoo under excavation: In 1939, a seventh-century ship burial was excavated at Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in Suffolk. The Sutton Hoo ship burial. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. Sadly, because of the acidic nature of the soils at Sutton Hoo, no trace of the body at the centre of the grave survived and, in the absence of an inscription or other historical reference, the identity of the person interred will probably never be known for sure. Sutton Hoo ship burial. Most have long since been plundered by grave robbers, but the tomb uncovered at Mound Seventeen was another hugely significant find, revealing a young warrior and his horse, buried complete with not just his weapons but also everyday items such as cooking tools and a comb. The simple answer is: we don’t know. The burial goods from Sutton Hoo are remarkable - gold weapons and armour, inlaid ornaments, silver and tableware. Weapons found around the body are equally impressive: a sword with a gold and garnet cloisonné pommel, a sword harness with extremely intricate garnet cellwork and the huge gold belt buckle, also exquisitely engineered. Today, we think it may have been King Raedwald. Pretty called upon the services of a self-taught archaeologist, Basil Brown, who made the discovery. She continues: Sutton Hoo is England's Valley of the Kings, and the Anglo-Saxon ship burial found in the King's Mound is the richest burial ever found in northern Europe. Weighing up the finds of such riches, along with the location of the mounds, only four miles from Rendlesham, where Bede says the King of East Anglia had his great hall, and the fact that the burial is pagan, it seems overwhelmingly likely that Mound 1 at Sutton Hoo is the ship burial of the great King Rædwald of East Anglia, who died in 624 or 625. However, more recent analysis detected phosphate in the soil – an indicator that a human body once lay at rest there. The burial mounds at Sutton Hoo The ship burial unearthed in 1939. The discovery not far from the Suffolk coast offers unique insight into Anglo-Saxon society and culture. In the 7th century AD, a King – it was surely no less – received a magnificent burial at Sutton Hoo, in East Anglia. 'This single burial in a pretty corner of Suffolk embodied a society of remarkable artistic achievement, complex belief systems and far-reaching international connections, not to mention immense personal power and wealth,' says Brunning. Founded about 600 C.E., and lasting a hundred years, Sutton Hoo contained only about twenty burials, most of them rich and unusual, spread over four hectares. Here mysterious grassy mounds covered a number of ancient graves. Excavated 1939, Sutton Hoo. Scholars believe Rædwald of East Angliato be the most likely the person buried in the ship. Near the River Deben in Suffolk, at Sutton Hoo, are eleven mounds or 'barrows' dating back to the 7th century. 'I felt a little jolt when I put this theory together. Sometime around 1,400 years ago, a great ship was hauled up from the East Anglian coast to Sutton Hoo, the site of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground. The Sutton Hoo grave is remarkable for the majesty of its contents and its monumental scale. You will shortly receive a receipt for your purchase via email. The site was excavated in the 1930s and it has revealed some incredibly important finds and helped to further our knowledge of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain. copyright 2000. You have successfully linked your account! One cemetery had an undisturbed ship burial with a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts; most of these objects are now held by the British Museum. When it was unearthed in 1939, any bodily remains were claimed by the acidic local soil to leave only a human-shaped gap among the treasures within. One of which was the mystery of the missing body in the Great Ship Burial . Redwald was the first East Anglian king to pay attention to Christianity. Sutton Hoo is an Anglo-Saxon ship burial (also described by some as a grave field) that is located in England in the county of Suffolk. Archaeologists have been excavating the area since 1939. The platter was already a century old when buried at Sutton Hoo, and reflects East Anglia's long-distance connections. Post-Roman Britain was considered to have entered the 'Dark Ages', where civilisation in all aspects of life declined. Away from Suffolk, the British Museum in London houses many of the treasures in a dedicated gallery. There is an ornate gold belt buckle, a decorated sword and its scabbard, buckles and clasps from clothing and a purse containing gold coins. The Sutton Hoo ship burial provides remarkable insights into early Anglo-Saxon England. She highlights the effort and manpower that would have been necessary to position and bury the ship – it would have involved dragging the ship uphill from the River Deben, digging a large trench, cutting trees to craft the chamber, dressing it with finery and raising the mound. However, the nature of the finds, which predominantly date from the early 7th century, have led some archaeologists and historians to suggest that this may have been the final resting place of a king, most probably Raedwald, ruler of the East Angles, who died sometime around AD 624. Indeed, this fusing of Christian and traditional religious elements offers a fascinating insight into Britain at a time when Christianity was establishing a real stronghold. The mourners at Sutton Hoo chose and arranged the grave goods around the burial chamber in a meaningful way to transmit messages about the dead person's identity and status in society – as a mighty leader, wealthy, generous, connected with the wider world and the glorious Roman past. Brunning's study of the Sutton Hoo sword has led her to believe that the owner was left-handed, with patterns of wear indicating it was worn on the right side and carried in the left hand. Upon the services of a decayed ship and a patchwork historical narrative to place the evidence alongside is who was buried at sutton hoo... Found is called Sutton Hoo represents the most important finds, made using traditional methods, plus a of. They came from the Suffolk coast offers unique insight into Anglo-Saxon society before Kings wearing... 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