Sutton Hoo

United Kingdom

Posted: Sep 16, 2021 | Updated: Dec 3, 2021

In 1939 an undisturbed Anglo-Saxon burial ship and an amazing collection of treasures dating from the early 7th century was found. The Anglo-Saxons originated from the Nordic and Germanic tribes and is why I see this as continuation of what was seen in Oslo last week. However, where in Oslo an entire ship survived, at Sutton Hoo none of the original timber remains.

A stain in the sand had replaced the wood and preserved many details of the construction. Most of the iron planking rivets remained in their original places and it was possible to survey and see a ghost imprint of the ship.

Sutton Hoo is of a primary importance to early medieval historians because it sheds light on a period of English history which is on the margin between legend and historical documentation. Use of the site culminated at a time when the ruler (Raedwald) of East Anglia held senior power among the English people and is central to understanding of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia and of the period.

Though the ship has rotted away, Sutton Hoo is one the most magnificent archaeological finds in England for its size and completeness, far-reaching connections, quality and beauty of its contents. Although ship burial commands the widest attention, there is also rich historical meaning in the finds from the whole area.


The Highlights

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Posted: Dec 6, 2008 | Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Sutton Hoo visitor centre

In school in the North West of England I remember being taught about Sutton Hoo, a field in the East of England where some treasure was found, but the significance was lost upon me; and the Saxons as far as I can remember were never taught as an interesting time in history as this was part of the so called Dark Ages. A teacher from my early years once described this as being a time that we don't know much about because it came after the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire, a time which comparatively had an abundance of records. That was certainly the view at one time, a judgement that sees classical antiquity as the 'light', but the fact is that records do exist. Scholars have found many records of what happened in the time after the fall of the Roman Empire; it wasn't a universal age where written records did not exist, and a so called 'dark age' should also be mentioned alongside a particular geography as the Abbasid Caliphate was experiencing a Golden Age whilst in England the term might apply due to the collapse in society following Roman exit. Despite collapse, writings do exist from this time though they do sometimes have a religious perspective, The Venerable Bede being one such author, though his time came around the 9th century.

Anyway, as now live in the East if England I came across signs to Sutton Hoo when cycling the Suffolk roads and I made a mental not to visit. Some years later I did; and saw the mounds of this extravagant graveyard for nobility.

There are around eighteen burial mounds within the Royal Burial Ground. Many have been so eroded over the centuries that it is hard to know exactly how many there were and many were robbed. The mound that made Sutton Hoo so famous only narrowly missed being looted by grave robbers as their attempt can be seen falling short by just a few meters.

The burials date to the seventh-century AD. The people buried here left no written records (those dark ages again), so it is impossible to know exactly who they were, but historians strongly suspect that Sutton Hoo was the cemetery for the royal dynasty of East Anglia, the Wuffingas, who claimed descent from the god Woden. 

The mounds were robbed largely in the Tudor period, and much of what was there was lost, but two mounds escaped this fate - the Great Ship Burial or King's Mound One and the Horseman's Mound.

1) Sutton Hoo - Mound 2
2) Burial mounds from viewing platform
3) Burial mounds including mound 2
4) Recreation of burial chamber I
5) Recreation of burial chamber II
6) Mound 17, Equestrian Grave
7) Bronze bucket decoration

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