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Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo

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Sutton Hoo, near to Woodbridge
Woodbridge, Suffolk
Woodbridge is a town in Suffolk, East Anglia, England. It is in the East of England, not far from the coast. It lies along the River Deben, with a population of about 7,480. The town is served by Woodbridge railway station on the Ipswich-Lowestoft East Suffolk Line. Woodbridge is twinned with...

, in the English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 county of Suffolk
Suffolk is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east...

, is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries. One contained an undisturbed ship burial
Ship burial
A ship burial or boat grave is a burial in which a ship or boat is used either as a container for the dead and the grave goods, or as a part of the grave goods itself. If the ship is very small, it is called a boat grave...

 including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon art
Anglo-Saxon art
Anglo-Saxon art covers art produced within the Anglo-Saxon period of English history, beginning with the Migration period style that the Anglo-Saxons brought with them from the continent in the 5th century, and ending in 1066 with the Norman Conquest of a large Anglo-Saxon nation-state whose...

efacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, now held in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 in London.

Sutton Hoo is of a primary importance to early medieval
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 historians because it sheds light on a period of English history which is on the margin between myth, legend and historical documentation. Use of the site culminated at a time when Rædwald, the ruler of the East Angles, held senior power among the English people and played a dynamic if ambiguous part in the establishment of Christian rulership in England; it is generally thought most likely that he is the person buried in the ship. The site has been vital in understanding the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia and the whole early Anglo-Saxon period.

The ship-burial, probably dating from the early 7th century and excavated in 1939, is one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England for its size and completeness, far-reaching connections, the quality and beauty of its contents, and for the profound interest of the burial ritual itself. The initial excavation was privately sponsored by the landowner, but when the significance of the find became apparent, national experts took over. Subsequent archaeological campaigns, particularly in the late 1960s and late 1980s, have explored the wider site and many other individual burials. The most significant artifacts from the ship-burial, displayed in the British Museum, are those found in the burial chamber, including a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield and sword, a lyre
The lyre is a stringed musical instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later. The word comes from the Greek "λύρα" and the earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greek ru-ra-ta-e, meaning "lyrists", written in Linear B syllabic script...

, and many pieces of silver plate from the Eastern Roman Empire. The ship-burial has from the time of its discovery prompted comparisons with the world described in the heroic Old English poem Beowulf
Beowulf , but modern scholars agree in naming it after the hero whose life is its subject." of an Old English heroic epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature.It survives in a single...

, which is set in southern Sweden. It is in that region, especially at Vendel
Vendel is a parish in the Swedish province of Uppland.The village overlooks a long inland stretch of water, Vendelsjön, near which the Vendel river has its confluence with the river Fyris. The church was established in 1310...

, that close archaeological parallels to the ship-burial are found, both in its general form and in details of the military equipment that the burial contains.

Although it is the ship-burial which commands the greatest attention from tourists, there is also rich historical meaning in the two separate cemeteries, their position in relation to the Deben
River Deben
The River Deben is a river in Suffolk rising in Debenham -to be precise it has two main sources but the others are mostly fields runoff then , passes through Woodbridge, turning into a tidal estuary before entering the North Sea at Felixstowe Ferry...

 estuary and the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

, and their relation to other sites in the immediate neighbourhood. Of the two gravefields found at Sutton Hoo, one (the 'Sutton Hoo cemetery') had long been known to exist because it consists of a group of around 20 earthen burial mounds
Anglo-Saxon burial mounds
Anglo-Saxon burial mounds refers to the burial mounds - also known as barrows or tumuli - that were produced during the late sixth and seventh centuries CE in Anglo-Saxon England. Such barrows were "princely burials", being of high status individuals who would have been members of the social elite...

 which rise slightly above the horizon of the hill-spur when viewed from the opposite bank. The other, called here the "new" burial ground, is situated on a second hill-spur close to the present Exhibition Hall, about 500 m upstream of the first, and was discovered and partially explored in 2000 during preparations for the construction of the hall. This also had burials under mounds, but was not known because they had long since been flattened by agricultural activity. The site has a visitor's centre, with many original and replica artefacts and a reconstruction of the ship burial chamber, and the burial field can be toured in the summer months.


Sutton Hoo is the name of an area spread along the bank of the River Deben opposite the harbour of the small Suffolk town of Woodbridge. About 7 miles (11 km) from the sea, it overlooks the tidal estuary a little below the lowest convenient fording place. It formed a path of entry into East Anglia during the period that followed the end of Roman imperial rule
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

 in the 5th century.

South of Woodbridge, there are 6th century burial grounds at Rushmere, Little Bealings
Little Bealings
Little Bealings is a village in Suffolk, England. It has a population of approximately 470 people living in around 185 households. Its nearest towns are Ipswich and Woodbridge...

 and Tuddenham St Martin, and circling Brightwell Heath, the site of mounds that date from the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

. There are cemeteries of a similar date at Rendlesham and Ufford. A ship-burial at Snape
Snape boat grave
The Snape ship burial is a 6th century boat grave found at Snape Common, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk, East Anglia.-History:This was the first boat grave of its kind discovered in England , and foreshadowed the discovery of the two large ship burials, one of them...

 is the only one in England that can be compared to the example at Sutton Hoo.

The territory between the Orwell and the watersheds of the Alde and Deben rivers may have been an early centre of royal power, originally centred upon Rendlesham or Sutton Hoo, and a primary component in the formation of the East Anglian kingdom: in the early 7th century, Gipeswic (modern Ipswich
Ipswich is a large town and a non-metropolitan district. It is the county town of Suffolk, England. Ipswich is located on the estuary of the River Orwell...

) began its growth as a centre for foreign trade, Botolph's monastery at Iken
Iken is a small village and civil parish in the marshlands of the English county of Suffolk.It is near the estuary of the River Alde on the North Sea coast and is located south east of Snape and due north of Orford....

 was founded by royal grant in 654 and Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

 identified Rendlesham as the site of Æthelwold's
Æthelwold of East Anglia
Æthelwold, also known as Æthelwald or Æþelwald , was a 7th century king of East Anglia, the long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was a member of the Wuffingas dynasty, which ruled East Anglia from their regio at Rendlesham...

 royal dwelling.

Neolithic and Bronze Age

There is evidence that Sutton Hoo was occupied during the Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 period, circa
Circa , usually abbreviated c. or ca. , means "approximately" in the English language, usually referring to a date...

3000 BCE, when woodland in the area was cleared by agriculturalists. They dug small pits that contained flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

-tempered earthenware
Earthenware is a common ceramic material, which is used extensively for pottery tableware and decorative objects.-Types of earthenware:Although body formulations vary between countries and even between individual makers, a generic composition is 25% ball clay, 28% kaolin, 32% quartz, and 15%...

 pots. Several pits were near to hollows where large trees had been uprooted: the Neolithic farmers may have associated the hollows with the pots.

During the Bronze Age, when agricultural communities living in Britain were adopting the newly-introduced technology of metalworking, timber-framed roundhouses
Roundhouse (dwelling)
The roundhouse is a type of house with a circular plan, originally built in western Europe before the Roman occupation using walls made either of stone or of wooden posts joined by wattle-and-daub panels and a conical thatched roof. Roundhouses ranged in size from less than 5m in diameter to over 15m...

 were built at Sutton Hoo, with wattle and daub
Wattle and daub
Wattle and daub is a composite building material used for making walls, in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw...

 walling and thatched
Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, sedge , rushes, or heather, layering the vegetation so as to shed water away from the inner roof. It is a very old roofing method and has been used in both tropical and temperate climates...

 roofs. The best surviving example contained a ring of upright posts, up to 30 millimetres (1.2 in) in diameter, with one pair suggesting an entrance to the south-east. In the central hearth
In common historic and modern usage, a hearth is a brick- or stone-lined fireplace or oven often used for cooking and/or heating. For centuries, the hearth was considered an integral part of a home, often its central or most important feature...

, a faience
Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff earthenware body, originally associated with Faenza in northern Italy. The invention of a white pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip...

 bead had been dropped. The farmers who dwelt in this house used decorated Beaker-style
Beaker culture
The Bell-Beaker culture , ca. 2400 – 1800 BC, is the term for a widely scattered cultural phenomenon of prehistoric western Europe starting in the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic running into the early Bronze Age...

 pottery, cultivated barley, oats and wheat, and collected hazelnuts. They were responsible for creating ditches that marked out the surrounding grassland into sections, indicating land ownership. The acidic sandy soil eventually become leached
Leaching (agriculture)
In agriculture, leaching refers to the loss of water-soluble plant nutrients from the soil, due to rain and irrigation. Soil structure, crop planting, type and application rates of fertilizers, and other factors are taken into account to avoid excessive nutrient loss.Leaching may also refer to ...

 and infertile and it was likely that for this reason the settlement was eventually abandoned, to be replaced in the Middle Bronze Age (1500-1000 BCE) by sheep or cattle, that were enclosed by wooden stakes.

Iron Age and Romano-British period

During the Iron Age
British Iron Age
The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron-Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, and which had an independent Iron Age culture of...

, iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 became the dominant form of metal used in the British Isles, replacing copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 and bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

. In the Middle Iron Age (around 500 BCE), people living in the Sutton Hoo area grew crops again, dividing the land up into small enclosures now known as Celtic fields. The use of narrow trenches implies grape cultivation, whilst in other places, small pockets of dark soil indicate that big cabbages may have been grown. Such cultivation continued into the Romano-British period
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

, from 43 to around 410. Life for the Britons remained unaffected by the arrival of the Romans. Several artefacts from this period, including a few fragments of pottery and a discarded fibula, have been found. As the peoples of western Europe were encouraged by the Empire to maximise the use of land for growing crops, the area around Sutton Hoo suffered degradation and soil loss and was again eventually abandoned and the area became a wilderness.


Following the withdrawal of the Romans from southern Britain after 410, the remaining population slowly adopted the language, customs and beliefs of the Germanic Angles
The Angles is a modern English term for a Germanic people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany...

, Saxons
The Saxons were a confederation of Germanic tribes originating on the North German plain. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein...

 and Jutes
The Jutes, Iuti, or Iutæ were a Germanic people who, according to Bede, were one of the three most powerful Germanic peoples of their time, the other two being the Saxons and the Angles...

. Much of the process may have been due to cultural appropriation
Cultural appropriation
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture. It can include the introduction of forms of...

, due to a widespread migration into Britain, although the people that arrived may have been relatively small in numbers and aggressive towards the local populations they encountered.

The Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 developed new cultural traits. Their language developed into Old English, a Germanic language that was different to the languages previously spoken in Britain, and were pagans, following a polytheistic
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

 religion. Differences in their daily material culture
Material culture
In the social sciences, material culture is a term that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. Studying a culture's relationship to materiality is a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be discussed...

 changed, as they stopped living in roundhouses and constructed rectangular timber homes similar to those found in Denmark and northern Germany. Their jewellery began to exhibit the increasing influence of Migration Period Art
Migration Period art
Migration Period art denotes the artwork of the Germanic peoples during the Migration period . It includes the Migration art of the Germanic tribes on the continent, as well the start of the Insular art or Hiberno-Saxon art of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic fusion in the British Isles...

 from continental Europe.

During this period, southern Britain became divided up into a number of small independent kingdoms. Several pagan cemeteries from the kingdom of the East Angles have been found, most notably at Spong Hill
Spong Hill
Spong Hill is an Anglo-Saxon cemetery site located at North Elmham in Norfolk, England. The largest Early Anglo-Saxon burial site ever excavated, it contains within it 2259 cremations and 57 inhumations. The site at Spong Hill consisted of two cemeteries, a large cremation cemetery and a smaller,...

 and Snape, where a large number cremations and inhumations were found. Many of the graves were accompanied by grave goods
Grave goods
Grave goods, in archaeology and anthropology, are the items buried along with the body.They are usually personal possessions, supplies to smooth the deceased's journey into the afterlife or offerings to the gods. Grave goods are a type of votive deposit...

, which included combs, tweezers and brooch
A brooch ; also known in ancient times as a fibula; is a decorative jewelry item designed to be attached to garments. It is usually made of metal, often silver or gold but sometimes bronze or some other material...

es, as well as weapons. Sacrificed animals had been placed in the graves.

At the time when the Sutton Hoo cemetery was in use, the River Deben would have formed part of a busy trading and transportation network. A number of settlements grew up along the river, most of which would have been small farmsteads, although it seems likely that there was a larger administrative centre as well, where the local aristocracy held court. Archaeologists have speculated that such a centre may have existed at Rendlesham, Melton
Melton is a local government district with borough status in north-eastern Leicestershire, England. It is named after its main town, Melton Mowbray. Other settlements include Asfordby and Bottesford. It has a population of 46,861.-History:...

, Bromeswell
Bromeswell is a village and civil parish in the Suffolk Coastal district of Suffolk, England about 2 miles east of Woodbridge.Bromeswell shows many of the characteristics of a traditional English village. It is one of the most secluded, beautiful spots in Suffolk...

 or at Sutton Hoo. It has been suggested that when wealthier families buried their dead in burial mounds, these were later used as sites for early churches. In such cases the mounds would have been destroyed.

The Sutton Hoo gravefield contained about twenty barrows
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

 and was reserved for people who were buried individually with objects that indicated that they had exceptional wealth or prestige. It was used in this way for from around 575 to 625 and contrasts with the Snape cemetery, where the ship-burial and furnished graves were added to a graveyard of buried pots containing cremated ashes.

The cremations and inhumations, Mounds 17 and 14

Carver believes that the cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

 burials at Sutton Hoo were "among the earliest" in the cemetery. Two were excavated in 1938. Under Mound 3 was the ashes of a man and a horse placed on a wooden trough or dugout bier
A bier is a stand on which a corpse, coffin or casket containing a corpse, is placed to lie in state or to be carried to the grave.In Christian burial, the bier is often placed in the centre of the nave with candles surrounding it, and remains in place during the funeral.The bier is a flat frame,...

, a Frankish
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 iron-headed throwing-axe
The francisca is a throwing axe used as a weapon during the Early Middle Ages by the Franks, among whom it was a characteristic national weapon at the time of the Merovingians from about 500 to 750 AD and is known to have been used during the reign of Charlemagne .Although generally associated...

 and imported objects from the eastern Mediterranean, including the lid of a bronze ewer, part of a miniature carved plaque
Commemorative plaque
A commemorative plaque, or simply plaque, is a plate of metal, ceramic, stone, wood, or other material, typically attached to a wall, stone, or other vertical surface, and bearing text in memory of an important figure or event...

 depicting a winged Victory
Victoria (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion, Victoria was the personified goddess of victory. She is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Nike, and was associated with Bellona. She was adapted from the Sabine agricultural goddess Vacuna and had a temple on the Palatine Hill...

 and fragments of decorated bone from a casket
A casket, or jewelry box is a term for a container that is usually larger than a box, and smaller than a chest, and in the past was typically decorated...

. Under Mound 4 was the cremated remains of a man and a woman, with a horse and perhaps also a dog, as well as fragments of bone gaming-pieces.

In Mounds 5, 6 and 7, Carver found cremations deposited in bronze bowls. In Mound 5 were found gaming-pieces, small iron shears, a cup and an ivory
Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

 box. Mound 7 also contained gaming-pieces, as well as an iron-bound bucket, a sword-belt fitting and a drinking vessel, together with the remains of horse, cattle, red deer
Red Deer
The red deer is one of the largest deer species. Depending on taxonomy, the red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being...

, sheep and pig that had been burnt with the deceased on a pyre
A pyre , also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite...

. Mound 6 contained cremated animals, gaming-pieces, a sword-belt fitting and a comb. The Mound 18 grave was very damaged, but of similar kind. Two cremations were found during the 1960s exploration to define the extent of Mound 5, together with two inhumations and a pit with a skull and fragments of decorative foil. In level areas between the mounds, Carver found three furnished inhumations. One small mound held a child's remains, along with his buckle and miniature spear. A man's grave included two belt-buckles and a knife, and that of a woman contained a leather bag, a pin and a chatelaine
Chatelaine (chain)
Chatelaine is a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with a useful household appendage such as scissors, thimble, watch, key, vinaigrette, household seal, etc....

The most impressive of the burials without a chamber is that of a young man and his horse, found in Mound 17. The horse would have been sacrificed for the funeral, in a ritual sufficiently standardised to indicate a lack of sentimental attachment to it. Two undisturbed grave-hollows existed side-by-side under the mound. The man's oak coffin
A coffin is a funerary box used in the display and containment of dead people – either for burial or cremation.Contemporary North American English makes a distinction between "coffin", which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides in plan view, and "casket", which...

, contained his pattern welded
Pattern welding
Pattern welding is the practice in sword and knife making of forming a blade of several metal pieces of differing composition that are forge-welded together and twisted and manipulated to form a pattern. Often called Damascus steel, blades forged in this manner often display bands of slightly...

 sword on his right and his sword-belt, wrapped around the blade, which had a bronze buckle with garnet
The garnet group includes a group of minerals that have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives. The name "garnet" may come from either the Middle English word gernet meaning 'dark red', or the Latin granatus , possibly a reference to the Punica granatum , a plant with red seeds...

Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects, in recent centuries using vitreous enamel, and in older periods also inlays of cut gemstones, glass, and other materials. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné...

 cellwork, two pyramidal strapmounts and a scabbard
A scabbard is a sheath for holding a sword, knife, or other large blade. Scabbards have been made of many materials over the millennia, including leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.-Types of scabbards:...

-buckle. By the man's head was a firesteel
A Fire striker is a piece of high-carbon steel used for striking a spark, usually kept in a tinderbox together with flint and tinder.-Usage:...

 and a leather pouch, containing rough garnets and a piece of millefiori
Millefiori is a glasswork technique which produces distinctive decorative patterns on glassware.The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words "mille" and "fiori" . Apsley Pellatt was the first to use the term "millefiori", which appeared in the Oxford Dictionary in 1849...

 glass. Around the coffin were two spears, a shield, a small cauldron
A cauldron or caldron is a large metal pot for cooking and/or boiling over an open fire, with a large mouth and frequently with an arc-shaped hanger.- Etymology :...

 and a bronze bowl, a pot, an iron-bound bucket and some animal ribs. In the north-west corner of his grave was a bridle
A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, the "bridle" includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit....

, mounted with circular gilt bronze plaques with interlace
Interlace (visual arts)
In the visual arts, interlace is a decorative element found in medieval art. In interlace, bands or portions of other motifs are looped, braided, and knotted in complex geometric patterns, often to fill a space. Islamic interlace patterns and Celtic knotwork share similar patterns, suggesting a...

 ornamentation. These items are on display at Sutton Hoo.

Inhumation graves of this kind are known from both England and Germanic Europe, with most dating from the 6th or early 7th century. In about 1820, an example was excavated at Witnesham
Witnesham is a village situated roughly to the north of Ipswich, Suffolk. The main road from Ipswich that links the village to the town is the B1077, Westerfield Road....

. There are other examples at Lakenheath
Lakenheath is a village in Suffolk, England. It has around 8,200 residents, and is situated in the Forest Heath district of Suffolk, close to the county boundaries of both Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, and at the meeting point of the The Fens and the Breckland natural environments.Lakenheath is host...

 in western Suffolk and in the Snape cemetery: other examples have been inferred from records of the discovery of horse furniture at Eye
Eye, Suffolk
Eye is a small market town in the county of Suffolk, East Anglia, England, south of Diss, and on the River Dove.Eye is twinned with the town of Pouzauges in the Vendée Departement of France.-History:An island...

 and Mildenhall
Mildenhall, Suffolk
Mildenhall is a small market town and civil parish in Suffolk, England. It is run by Forest Heath District Council and has a population of 9,906 people. The town is near the A11 and is located north-west of county town, Ipswich. The large Royal Air Force base, RAF Mildenhall as well as RAF...


Although grave under Mound 14 had been destroyed almost completely by robbing, apparently during a heavy rainstorm, it had contained exceptionally high quality goods belonging to a woman. These included a chatelaine, a kidney-shaped purse lid, a bowl, several buckles, a dress-fastener and the hinges of a casket, all made of silver, and also a fragment of embroidered cloth.

Mound 2

This important grave, much damaged by looters, was probably the source of the many iron ship-rivets found at Sutton Hoo in 1860. In 1938, when the mound was excavated, iron rivets were found, which enabled the Mound 2 grave to be interpreted as a small boat. Carver's re-investigation revealed that there was a rectangular plank
Plank (wood)
A plank is a piece of timber, flat, elongated and rectangular, with parallel faces, higher or longer than wide, used in the construction of ships, houses, bridges, etc......

-lined chamber, 5 metres (16.4 ft) long by 2 metres (6.6 ft) wide, sunk below the land surface, with the body and grave-goods laid out in it. A small ship had been placed over this in an east–west alignment, before a large earth mound was raised.

Chemical analysis
Analytical chemistry
Analytical chemistry is the study of the separation, identification, and quantification of the chemical components of natural and artificial materials. Qualitative analysis gives an indication of the identity of the chemical species in the sample and quantitative analysis determines the amount of...

 of the chamber floor has suggested the presence of a body in the south-western corner. The goods found included fragments of a blue glass
Anglo-Saxon glass
Anglo-Saxon glass has been found across England during archaeological excavations of both settlement and cemetery sites. Glass in the Anglo-Saxon period was used in the manufacture of a range of objects including vessels, beads, windows and was even used in jewellery. In the 5th century AD with the...

 cup with a trailed decoration, similar to the recent find from the Prittlewell tomb
Royal saxon tomb in Prittlewell
The Royal Saxon tomb in Prittlewell is a high-status Anglo-Saxon tomb excavated at Prittlewell, north of Southend-on-Sea, in the English county of Essex....

 in Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

. There were two gilt-bronze discs with animal interlace ornament
Animal style
Animal style art is characterized by its emphasis on animal and bird motifs, and the term describes an approach to decoration which existed from China to Northern Europe in the early Iron Age, and the barbarian art of the Migration Period...

, a bronze brooch, a silver buckle and a gold-coated stud from a buckle. Four objects had a special kinship with the Mound 1 finds: the tip of a sword blade showed elaborate pattern-welding; silver-gilt drinking horn-mounts (struck from the same dies as those in Mound 1; and the similarity of two fragments of dragon-like mounts or plaques. Although the rituals were not identical, the association of the contents of the grave shows a connection between the two burials.

The execution burials

The cemetery also contained a number of inhumations of people who had died by violent means, in some cases by hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 or decapitation
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

. Often the bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

s had not survived, but the fleshy parts of the bodies had stained the sandy soil: the soil was laminate
A laminate is a material that can be constructed by uniting two or more layers of material together. The process of creating a laminate is lamination, which in common parlance refers to the placing of something between layers of plastic and gluing them with heat and/or pressure, usually with an...

d as work progressed, so that the emaciated
Emaciation occurs when an organism loses substantial amounts of much needed fat and often muscle tissue, making that organism look extremely thin. The cause of emaciation is a lack of nutrients, starvation, or disease....

 figures of the dead could be revealed. Casts were taken of several of these tableaux.

The identification and discussion of these burials was led by Carver. Two main groups were excavated, with one arranged around Mound 5 and the other situated beyond the barrow cemetery limits in the field to the east. It is thought that a gallows
A gallows is a frame, typically wooden, used for execution by hanging, or by means to torture before execution, as was used when being hanged, drawn and quartered...

 once stood on Mound 5, in a prominent position near to a significant river-crossing point, and that the graves contained the bodies of criminals, possibly executed from the 8th and 9th centuries onwards.

The new gravefield

In 2000, a Suffolk County Council team excavated the site intended for the National Trust
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

's new visitor centre
Visitor center
A visitor center or centre , visitor information center, tourist information center, is a physical location that provides tourist information to the visitors who tour the place or area locally...

, north of Tranmer House, at a point where the ridge of the Deben valley veers westwards to form a promontory
Promontory may refer to:*Promontory, a prominent mass of land which overlooks lower lying land or a body of water*Promontory, Utah, the location where the United States first Transcontinental Railroad was completed...

. When the topsoil
Topsoil is the upper, outermost layer of soil, usually the top to . It has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms and is where most of the Earth's biological soil activity occurs.-Importance:...

 was removed, early Anglo-Saxon burials were discovered in one corner, with some possessing high status objects. The area had first attracted attention with the discovery of part of a 6th century bronze vessel, of eastern Mediterranean origin, which had probably formed part of a furnished burial. The outer surface of the so-called 'Bromewell bucket' was decorated with a Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n or Nubia
Nubia is a region along the Nile river, which is located in northern Sudan and southern Egypt.There were a number of small Nubian kingdoms throughout the Middle Ages, the last of which collapsed in 1504, when Nubia became divided between Egypt and the Sennar sultanate resulting in the Arabization...

n style frieze
thumb|267px|Frieze of the [[Tower of the Winds]], AthensIn architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon...

, depicting naked warriors in combat with leaping lions, and had an inscription in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 which translated as 'Use this in good health, Master Count, for many happy years'.

In an area near to a former rose
A rose is a woody perennial of the genus Rosa, within the family Rosaceae. There are over 100 species. They form a group of erect shrubs, and climbing or trailing plants, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles. Flowers are large and showy, in colours ranging from white through yellows...

 garden, a group of moderate-sized burial mounds was identified. They had long since been levelled, but their position was shown by circular ditches that each enclosed a small deposit indicating the presence of a single burial, probably of unurned human ashes. One burial lay in an irregular oval
An oval is any curve resembling an egg or an ellipse, such as a Cassini oval. The term does not have a precise mathematical definition except in one area oval , but it may also refer to:* A sporting arena of oval shape** a cricket field...

 pit which contained two vessels, a stamped black earthenware urn of late 6th century type and a well-preserved large bronze hanging bowl
Hanging bowl
Hanging bowls are a distinctive type of artifact of the period between the end of Roman rule in Britain in c. 410 AD and the emergence of the Christian Anglo-Saxon kingdoms during the 7th century...

, with openwork hook escutcheons and a related circular mount at the centre. In another burial, a man had been laid next to his spear and covered with a shield of normal size. The shield bore an ornamented boss-stud and two fine metal mounts, ornamented with a predatory bird and a dragon-like creature.

Mound 1

The ship-burial discovered under Mound 1 in 1939 contained one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England for its size and completeness, far-reaching connections, the quality and beauty of its contents, and for the profound interest it generated.

The burial

Although practically none of the original timber survived, the form of the ship was perfectly preserved. Stains in the sand had replaced the wood but had preserved many construction details. Nearly all of the iron planking rivets were in their original places. It was possible to survey the original ship, which was found to be 27 metres (88.6 ft) long, pointed at either end with tall rising stem and stern posts
A sternpost is the upright structural member or post at the stern of a ship or a boat, to which are attached the transoms and the rearmost left corner part of the stern...

 and widening to 4.4 metres (14.4 ft) in the beam amidships with an inboard depth of 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) over the keel
In boats and ships, keel can refer to either of two parts: a structural element, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in construction of a ship, in British and American shipbuilding traditions the construction is dated from this event...

 line. From the keel board the hull
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

 was constructed clinker-fashion
Clinker (boat building)
Clinker building is a method of constructing hulls of boats and ships by fixing wooden planks and, in the early nineteenth century, iron plates to each other so that the planks overlap along their edges. The overlapping joint is called a land. In any but a very small boat, the individual planks...

 with nine planks on either side, fastened with rivets. Twenty-six wooden frames strengthened the form. Repairs were visible: this had been a sea-going vessel of excellent craftsmanship, but there was no descending keel. The decking, benches and mast were removed. In the fore and aft
Aft, in naval terminology, is an adjective or adverb meaning, towards the stern of the ship, when the frame of reference is within the ship. Example: "Able Seaman Smith; lay aft!". Or; "What's happening aft?"...

 sections, there were thorn
Thorn (letter)
Thorn or þorn , is a letter in the Old English, Old Norse, and Icelandic alphabets, as well as some dialects of Middle English. It was also used in medieval Scandinavia, but was later replaced with the digraph th. The letter originated from the rune in the Elder Fuþark, called thorn in the...

-shaped oar-rests along the gunwales, indicating that there may have been positions for forty oarsmen. The central chamber had timber walls were at either end and a roof, which was probably pitched.

The heavy oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 vessel had been hauled from the river up the hill and lowered into a prepared trench, so only the tops of the stem and stern posts rose above the land surface. After the addition of the body and the artefacts, an oval mound was constructed which covered the ship and rose above the horizon at the riverward side of the cemetery. The view to the river is now obscured by Top Hat Wood, but the mound would have been a visible symbol of power to those using the waterway. This appears to have been the final occasion upon which the Sutton Hoo cemetery was used for its original purpose.

Long afterwards, the roof collapsed violently under the weight of the mound, compressing the ship's contents into a seam of earth.

The body in the ship-burial

As a body was not found, there was early speculation that the ship-burial was a cenotaph
A cenotaph is an "empty tomb" or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been interred elsewhere. The word derives from the Greek κενοτάφιον = kenotaphion...

, but soil analyses conducted in 1967 found phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

 traces, supporting the view that a body had disappeared in the acidic soil. The presence of a platform (or a large coffin) that was about 9 feet (2.7 m) long was indicated. An iron-bound wooden bucket and an iron lamp containing beeswax
Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. It is mainly esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols...

 and a bottle of north continental manufacture were close by. The objects around the body indicate that it lay with the head at the west end of the wooden structure.

Artefacts near the body have been identified as regalia
Regalia is Latin plurale tantum for the privileges and the insignia characteristic of a Sovereign.The word stems from the Latin substantivation of the adjective regalis, 'regal', itself from Rex, 'king'...

, pointing to it being that of a king. Most of the suggestions for the occupant are East Anglian kings, because of the proximity of the royal vill
Vill is a term used in English history to describe a land unit which might otherwise be described as a parish, manor or tithing.The term is used in the period immediately after the Norman conquest and into the late medieval. Land units in Domesday are frequently referred to as vills, although the...

 of Rendlesham. Since 1940, when H.M. Chadwick first ventured that the ship-burial was probably the grave of Rædwald, scholarly opinion divided between Raedwald and his son (or step-son) Sigeberht
Sigeberht of East Anglia
Sigeberht of East Anglia , was a saint and a king of East Anglia, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was the first English king to receive a Christian baptism and education before his succession and the first to abdicate in order to enter...

. The man who was buried under Mound 1 cannot be identified, but the identification with Rædwald still has widespread scholarly acceptance, though from time to time other identifications are suggested, including his son Eorpwald of East Anglia, who succeeded his father in about 624. Rædwald is the most likely of the candidates because of the high quality of the imported and commissioned materials and the resources needed to assemble them, the authority that the gold was intended to convey, the community involvement required to conduct the ritual at a cemetery reserved for an elite, the close proximity of Sutton Hoo to Rendlesham and the probable date-horizons.

The objects in the burial chamber

David M. Wilson
David M. Wilson
Sir David Mackenzie Wilson, Kt is a British archaeologist, art historian, and museum curator, specialising in Anglo-Saxon art and the Viking Age. He lives on the Isle of Man....

 has remarked that the metal artworks found in the Sutton Hoo graves were "work of the highest quality, not only in English but in European terms".

Sutton Hoo is a cornerstone of the study of art in Britain in the 6th–9th centuries. George Henderson has described the ship treasures as "the first proven hothouse for the incubation of the Insular style
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

". The gold and garnet fittings show the creative fusion of earlier techniques and motifs by a master-goldsmith
A goldsmith is a metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals. Since ancient times the techniques of a goldsmith have evolved very little in order to produce items of jewelry of quality standards. In modern times actual goldsmiths are rare...

. Insular art drew upon Irish, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon, native British and Mediterranean artistic sources: the 7th century Book of Durrow
Book of Durrow
The Book of Durrow is a 7th-century illuminated manuscript gospel book in the Insular style. It was probably created between 650 and 700, in Northumbria in Northern England, where Lindisfarne or Durham would be the likely candidates, or on the island of Iona in the Scottish Inner Hebrides...

 owes as much to Pictish sculpture, British millefiori
Millefiori is a glasswork technique which produces distinctive decorative patterns on glassware.The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words "mille" and "fiori" . Apsley Pellatt was the first to use the term "millefiori", which appeared in the Oxford Dictionary in 1849...

 and enamelwork
Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

 and Anglo-Saxon cloisonné
Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects, in recent centuries using vitreous enamel, and in older periods also inlays of cut gemstones, glass, and other materials. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné...

 metalwork, as it does to Irish art. The Sutton Hoo treasures represent a continuum from pre-Christian royal accumulation of precious objects from diverse cultural sources, through to the art of gospel books, shrines and liturgical
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 or dynastic objects.

The head area: the helmet, bowls and spoons

On the head's left side was placed a 'crested' and masked helmet
Combat helmet
A combat helmet or battle helmet is a type of personal armor designed specifically to protect the head during combat. Helmets are among the oldest forms of personal protective equipment and are known to have been worn by the Akkadians/Sumerians in the 23rd century BC, Mycenaean Greeks since 17th...

, wrapped in cloths. With its panels of tinned bronze and assembled mounts the decoration is directly comparable to that found on helmets from the Vendel and Valsgärde
Valsgärde or Vallsgärde is a farm on the Fyris river, about three kilometres north of Gamla Uppsala, the ancient centre of the Swedish kings and of the pagan faith in Sweden. The present farm dates from the 16th century. The farm's notability derives from the presence of a burial site from the...

 cemeteries of eastern Sweden. The Sutton Hoo helmet differs from the Swedish examples in having an iron skull of a single vaulted shell and has a full face mask, a solid neck guard
Neck guard
A neck guard is a piece of protective equipment worn by ice hockey players around the neck area. The guard is to prevent injury to the neck by pucks, hockey sticks, and skate blades....

 and deep cheekpieces. These features have suggested an English origin for the basic structure of the helmet; the deep cheekpieces have parallels in the Coppergate helmet
Coppergate Helmet
The Coppergate Helmet is an 8th century Anglo-Saxon crested helm in York. It has two cheek plates, a mail curtain and a nose-guard, and is richly decorated with brass ornamentation. On analysis it was found to be made of iron with decorations of brass containing approximately 85 percent copper...

, found in York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

. Although outwardly very like the Swedish examples, the Sutton Hoo helmet is a product of better craftsmanship. Helmets are extremely rare finds. No other such figural plaques are known in England, apart from a fragment from a burial at Caenby
Caenby is a hamlet and civil parish in the West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England.Caenby Grade II listed Anglican church is dedicated to St Nicholas. A moated manor house, now the Grade II listed Hall Farm House, was a seat of the Tournay family from the days of Edward I to George II. In...

, Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

. The helmet rusted in the grave and was shattered into hundreds of tiny fragments when the chamber roof collapsed. Restoration of the helmet thus involved the meticulous identification, grouping and orientation of the surviving fragments before it could be reconstructed.

To the head's right was placed inverted a nested set of ten silver bowls, probably made in the Eastern Empire during the sixth century. Beneath them were two silver spoons, possibly from Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

, of a type bearing names of the Apostles. One spoon is marked in original niello
Niello is a black mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulphides, used as an inlay on engraved or etched metal. It can be used for filling in designs cut from metal...

ed Greek lettering with the name of PAULOS, 'Paul'. The other, matching spoon has been modified using lettering conventions of a Frankish
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 coin-die cutter, to read SAULOS, 'Saul'. One theory suggests that the spoons (and possibly also the bowls) were a baptismal gift for the buried person.

The weapons on the right side of the body

On the right of the 'body' lay a set of spears, tips uppermost, including three barbed angon
The angon was a type of javelin used during the Early Middle Ages by the Franks and other Germanic peoples including the Anglo-Saxons...

s, with their heads thrust through a handle of the bronze bowl. Nearby was a wand with a small mount depicting a wolf. Closer to the body lay the sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 with a gold and garnet cloisonné pommel 85 centimetres (33.5 in) long, its pattern-welded blade still within its scabbard
A scabbard is a sheath for holding a sword, knife, or other large blade. Scabbards have been made of many materials over the millennia, including leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.-Types of scabbards:...

, with superlative scabbard-bosses of domed cellwork and pyramidal mounts. Attached to this and lying towards the body was the sword harness and belt, fitted with a suite of gold mounts and strap-distributors of extremely intricate garnet cellwork ornament.

Upper body area: purse, shoulder-clasps and great buckle

Together with the sword harness and scabbard mounts, the gold and garnet objects found in the upper body space, which form a co-ordinated ensemble, are among the true wonders of Sutton Hoo. Their artistic and technical quality is quite exceptional.

The 'great' gold buckle is made in three parts. The plate is a long ovoid of meandering but symmetrical outline with densely interwoven and interpenetrating ribbon animals rendered in chip-carving on the front. The gold surfaces are punched to receive niello detail. The plate is hollow and has a hinged back, forming a secret chamber, possibly for a relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

. Both the tongue-plate and hoop are solid, ornamented, and expertly engineered.

Each shoulder-clasp consists of two matching curved halves, hinged upon a long removable chained pin. The surfaces display panels of interlocking stepped garnets and chequer millefiori insets, surrounded by interlaced ornament of Germanic Style II ribbon animals. The half-round clasp ends contain garnet-work of interlocking wild boars with filigree
Filigree is a delicate kind of jewellery metalwork made with twisted threads usually of gold and silver or stitching of the same curving motifs. It often suggests lace, and in recent centuries remains popular in Indian and other Asian metalwork, and French from 1660 to the late 19th century...

 surrounds. On the underside of the mounts are lugs
Lug (knob)
A Lug is a typically flattened protuberance, a knob, or extrusion on the side of a vessel: pottery, jug, glass, vase, etc. They are sometimes found on prehistoric ceramics/stone-vessels such as pots from Ancient Egypt, Hembury ware, claw beakers, and boar spears.A lug may also only be shaped as a...

 for attachment to a stiff leather cuirass
A cuirass is a piece of armour, formed of a single or multiple pieces of metal or other rigid material, which covers the front of the torso...

. The function of the clasps is to hold together the two halves of such armour so that it can fit the torso closely in the Roman manner. The cuirass itself, possibly worn in the grave, did not survive. No other Anglo-Saxon cuirass clasps are known.

The purse
Coin purse
A coin purse is a small money bag or pouch, similar to a wallet, but typically used by women and include a compartment for coins. In some countries, it is known simply as a purse...

, with its ornamental lid covering a lost leather pouch, hung from the waist-belt. The lid consists of a kidney-shaped cellwork frame enclosing a sheet of horn, on which were mounted pairs of exquisite garnet cellwork plaques depicting birds, wolves devouring men, geometric motifs and a double panel showing animals with interlaced extremities. The maker derived these images from the ornament of the Swedish-style helmets and shield-mounts. In his work they are transferred into the cellwork medium with dazzling technical and artistic virtuosity.

These are the work of a master-goldsmith who had access to an East Anglian armoury
Armory (military)
An armory or armoury is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, issued to authorized users, or any combination of those...

 containing the objects used as pattern sources. As an ensemble they enabled the patron to appear imperial.

The purse contained thirty-seven gold shillings or tremisses, each originating from a different Frankish mint
Mint (coin)
A mint is an industrial facility which manufactures coins for currency.The history of mints correlates closely with the history of coins. One difference is that the history of the mint is usually closely tied to the political situation of an era...

. They were deliberately collected. There were also three blank coins and two small ingot
An ingot is a material, usually metal, that is cast into a shape suitable for further processing. Non-metallic and semiconductor materials prepared in bulk form may also be referred to as ingots, particularly when cast by mold based methods.-Uses:...

s. This has prompted various explanations: possibly like the Roman obolus
The obol was an ancient silver coin. In Classical Athens, there were six obols to the drachma, lioterally "handful"; it could be excahnged for eight chalkoi...

they may have been left to pay the forty ghostly oarsmen in the afterworld, or were a funeral tribute, or an expression of allegiance. They provide the primary evidence for the date of the burial, which was debatably in the third decade of the 7th century.

The lower body and 'Heaps' areas

In the area corresponding to the lower legs of the body were laid out various drinking vessels, including a pair of drinking horns made from the horns of an aurochs
The aurochs , the ancestor of domestic cattle, were a type of large wild cattle which inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa, but is now extinct; it survived in Europe until 1627....

, extinct since early mediaeval times. These have matching die-stamped gilt rim mounts and vandykes, of similar workmanship and design to the shield mounts, and exactly similar to the surviving horn vandykes from Mound 2. In the same area stood a set of maplewood cups with similar rim-mounts and vandykes, and a heap of folded textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s lay on the left side.

A large quantity of material including metal objects and textiles was formed into two folded or packed heaps on the east end of the central wooden structure. This included the extremely rare survival of a long coat of ring-mail
A hauberk is a shirt of chainmail. The term is usually used to describe a shirt reaching at least to mid-thigh and including sleeves. Haubergeon generally refers to a shorter variant with partial sleeves, but the terms are often used interchangeably.- History :The word hauberk is derived from the...

, made of alternate rows of welded and riveted iron links, two hanging bowls, leather shoes, a cushion
A cushion is a soft bag of some ornamental material, stuffed with wool, hair, feathers, polyester staple fiber, non-woven material, or even paper torn into fragments. It may be used for sitting or kneeling upon, or to soften the hardness or angularity of a chair or couch...

 stuffed with feathers, folded objects of leather and a wooden platter. At one side of the heaps lay an iron hammer-axe with a long iron handle, possibly a weapon.

On top of the folded heaps was set a fluted silver dish with drop handles, probably of Italian make, with the relief image of a female head in late Roman style worked into the bowl. This contained a series of small burr-wood
A burl or bur or burr is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds.A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress. It may be caused...

 cups with rim-mounts, combs of antler
Antlers are the usually large, branching bony appendages on the heads of most deer species.-Etymology:Antler originally meant the lowest tine, the "brow tine"...

, small metal knives, a small silver bowl, and various other small effects (possibly toilet equipment), and including a bone gaming-piece, thought to be the 'king piece
Tafl games
Tafl games were a family of ancient Germanic and Celtic board games played on a checkered or latticed board with two teams of uneven strength. The size of the board and the number of pieces varied, but all games involved a distinctive 2:1 ratio of pieces, with the lesser side having a king-piece...

' from a set. (Traces of bone above the head position have suggested that a gaming-board was possibly set out, as at Taplow
Taplow burial
The Taplow burial is a 7th century Anglo-Saxon burial mound, situated in the churchyard of Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire. The burial dates to ca. AD 620, roughly contemporary with the Sutton Hoo burial...

.) Above these was a silver ladle
Ladle (spoon)
A ladle is a type of spoon used to scoop up and serve soup, stew, or other foods. Although designs vary, a typical ladle has a long handle terminating in a deep bowl, frequently with the bowl oriented at an angle to the handle to facilitate lifting liquid out of a pot or other vessel and conveying...

 with gilt chevron ornament, also of Mediterranean origin.

Over the whole of this, perched on top of the heaps, or their container, if there was one, lay a very large round silver platter with chased ornament, made in the Eastern Empire in around 500 and bearing the control stamps of Emperor Anastasius I
Anastasius I (emperor)
Anastasius I was Byzantine Emperor from 491 to 518. During his reign the Roman eastern frontier underwent extensive re-fortification, including the construction of Dara, a stronghold intended to counter the Persian fortress of Nisibis....

 (491–518). On this plate was deposited a piece of unburnt bone of uncertain derivation. The assemblage of Mediterranean silverware in the Sutton Hoo grave is unique for this period in Britain and Europe.

The west and east walls

Along the inner west wall (i.e. the head end) at the north-west corner stood a tall iron stand with a grid near the top. Beside this rested a very large circular shield, with a central boss, mounted with garnets and with die-pressed plaques of interlaced animal ornament. The shield front displayed two large emblems with garnet settings, one a composite metal predatory bird and the other a flying dragon. It also bore animal-ornamented sheet strips directly die-linked to examples from the early cemetery at Vendel near Old Uppsala in Sweden. A small bell, possibly for an animal, lay nearby.

Along the wall was a long square-sectioned whetstone, tapered at either end and carved with human faces on each side. A ring mount, topped by a bronze antlered stag figurine, was fixed to the upper end, possibly made to resemble a late Roman consular sceptre
A sceptre is a symbolic ornamental rod or wand borne in the hand by a ruling monarch as an item of royal or imperial insignia.-Antiquity:...

. The purpose of the sceptre has generated considerable debate and a number of theories, some of which point to the potential religious significance of the stag. South of the septre was an iron-bound wooden bucket, one of several in the grave.

In the south-west corner was a group of objects which may have been hung up, but when discovered, were compressed together. They included a Coptic or eastern Mediterranean bronze bowl with drop handles and figures of animals, found below a badly deformed six-stringed Anglo-Saxon lyre in a beaver-skin bag, of a Germanic type found in wealthy Anglo-Saxon and north European graves of this date. Uppermost was a large and exceptionally elaborate three-hooked hanging bowl
Hanging bowl
Hanging bowls are a distinctive type of artifact of the period between the end of Roman rule in Britain in c. 410 AD and the emergence of the Christian Anglo-Saxon kingdoms during the 7th century...

 of Insular production, with champleve
Champlevé is an enamelling technique in the decorative arts, or an object made by that process, in which troughs or cells are carved or cast into the surface of a metal object, and filled with vitreous enamel. The piece is then fired until the enamel melts, and when cooled the surface of the object...

Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

 and millefiori mounts showing fine-line spiral ornament and red cross motifs and with an enamelled metal fish mounted to swivel on a pin within the bowl.

At the east end of the chamber, near the north corner, stood an iron-bound tub of yew
-Botany:* Any of various coniferous trees and shrubs in the genus Taxus:** European Yew or Common Yew ** Pacific Yew or Western Yew ** Canadian Yew ** Chinese Yew...

 containing a smaller bucket. To the south were two small bronze cauldrons, which were probably hung against the wall. A large carinated bronze cauldron, similar to the example from a chamber-grave at Taplow
Taplow is a village and civil parish within South Bucks district in Buckinghamshire, England. It sits on the east bank of the River Thames facing Maidenhead on the opposite bank. Taplow railway station is situated near the A4 south of the village....

, with iron mounts and two ring-handles was hung by one handle. Nearby lay an iron chain almost 3.5 metres (11.5 ft) long, of complex ornamental sections and wrought links, for suspending a cauldron from the beams of a large hall. The chain was the product of a British tradition dating back to pre-Roman times. All these items were of a domestic character.


The burial chamber was evidently rich in textiles, represented by many fragments preserved, or by chemicals formed by corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

. They included quantities of twill
Twill is a type of textile weave with a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs . This is done by passing the weft thread over one or more warp threads and then under two or more warp threads and so on, with a "step" or offset between rows to create the characteristic diagonal pattern. Because of this...

, possibly from cloaks, blankets or hangings, and the remains of cloaks with characteristic long-pile weaving. There appear to have been more exotic coloured hangings or spreads, including some (possibly imported) woven in stepped lozenge patterns using a Syrian technique in which the weft
In weaving, weft or woof is the yarn which is drawn through the warp yarns to create cloth. In North America, it is sometimes referred to as the "fill" or the "filling yarn"....

 is looped around the warp
Warp (weaving)
In weaving cloth, the warp is the set of lengthwise yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom. The yarn that is inserted over-and-under the warp threads is called the weft, woof, or filler. Each individual warp thread in a fabric is called a warp end or end. Warp means "that which is thrown...

 to create a textured surface. Two other colour-patterned textiles, near the head and foot of the body area, resemble Scandinavian work of the same period.

Similarities with Swedish burials

In 1881-1883 a series of excavations by Hjalmar Stolpe
Hjalmar Stolpe
Hjalmar Stolpe, a Swedish entomologist, archaeologist, and ethnographer, was born April 23, 1841, in Gävle, Sweden, and died January 27, 1905. He is most well known for his archaeological excavations at the Viking-age site Birka....

 revealed 14 graves in the village of Vendel in eastern Sweden. Several of the burials were contained in boats up to 9 metres (29.5 ft) long and were furnished with swords, shields, helmets and other items. In 1828, another gravefield containing princely burials was discovered at Valsgärde
Valsgärde or Vallsgärde is a farm on the Fyris river, about three kilometres north of Gamla Uppsala, the ancient centre of the Swedish kings and of the pagan faith in Sweden. The present farm dates from the 16th century. The farm's notability derives from the presence of a burial site from the...

. The pagan custom of furnished burial may have reached a natural culmination as Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 began to make its mark. The Vendel and Valsgärde graves also included ships, similar artefact groups and many sacrificed animals
The blót was Norse pagan sacrifice to the Norse gods and the spirits of the land. The sacrifice often took the form of a sacramental meal or feast. Related religious practices were performed by other Germanic peoples, such as the pagan Anglo-Saxons...

. Ship-burials for this period are largely confined to eastern Sweden and East Anglia. The earlier mound-burials at Old Uppsala, in the same region, have a more direct bearing on the Beowulf story, but do not contain ship-burials. The famous Gokstad and Oseberg ship-burials are of a later date.

The inclusion of drinking-horns, lyre, sword and shield, bronze and glass vessels is typical of high-status chamber-graves in England. The similar selection and arrangement of the goods in these graves indicates a conformity of household possessions and funeral customs between people of this status, with the Sutton Hoo ship-burial being a uniquely-elaborated version, of exceptional quality. Unusually, Sutton Hoo included regalia and instruments of power and had direct Scandinavian connections. A possible explanation for such connections lies in the well-attested northern custom by which the children of leading men were often raised away from home by a distinguished friend or relative. A future East Anglian king, whilst being fostered in Sweden, could have acquired high quality objects and made contact with armourers, before returning to East Anglia to rule.

Carver argues that pagan East Anglian rulers would have responded to the growing encroachment of Roman Christendom by employing ever more elaborate cremation rituals, so expressing defiance and independence. The execution victims, if not sacrificed for the ship-burial, perhaps suffered for their dissent from the cult of Christian royalty: their executions may coincide in date with the period of Mercian hegemony over East Anglia in about 760–825.

Connections with Beowulf

Beowulf, the Old English epic poem set in Denmark and Sweden (mostly Götaland
Götaland , Gothia, Gothland, Gothenland, Gautland or Geatland is one of three lands of Sweden and comprises provinces...

) during the first half of the 6th century. It opens with the funeral of a king in a ship laden with treasure and has other descriptions of hoards, including Beowulf's own mound-burial. Its picture of warrior life in the hall of the Danish Scylding
Old English Scylding and Old Norse Skjöldung , meaning in both languages "People of Scyld/Skjöld" refers to members of a legendary royal family of Danes and sometimes to their people. The name is explained in many text by the descent of this family from an eponymous king Scyld/Skjöld...

Norse clans
The Scandinavian clan or ætt was a social group based on common descent or on the formal acceptance into the group at a þing.-History:...

, with formal mead-drinking, minstrel
A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. Frequently they were retained by royalty...

 recitation to the lyre and the rewarding of valour with gifts, and the description of a helmet, could all be illustrated from the Sutton Hoo finds. The interpretation of each has a bearing on the other, and the east Sweden connections with the Sutton Hoo material reinforce this link.

Sam Newton draws together the Sutton Hoo and Beowulf links with the Raedwald identification and using genealogical data, argues that the Wuffing dynasty derived from the Geatish house of Wulfing, mentioned in both Beowulf and the poem Widsith
Widsith is an Old English poem of 144 lines that appears to date from the 9th century, drawing on earlier oral traditions of Anglo-Saxon tale singing. The only text of the fragment is copied in the Exeter Book, a manuscript of Old English poetry compiled in the late 10th century containing...

. Possibly the oral materials from which Beowulf was assembled belonged to East Anglian royal tradition, and they and the ship-burial took shape together as heroic restatements of migration-age origins.

Prior to 1939

In mediaeval times the westerly end of the mound was dug away and a boundary ditch was laid out. Therefore when looters dug into the apparent centre during the sixteenth century they missed the real centre: nor could they have foreseen that the deposit lay very deep in the belly of a buried ship, well below the level of the land surface.

In the 16th century, a pit, dated by bottle shards left at the bottom, was dug into Mound 1, narrowly missing the burial. The area was explored extensively during the 19th century, when a small viewing platform was constructed, but no useful records were made. In 1860 it was reported that nearly two bushel
A bushel is an imperial and U.S. customary unit of dry volume, equivalent in each of these systems to 4 pecks or 8 gallons. It is used for volumes of dry commodities , most often in agriculture...

s of iron screw bolts, presumably ship rivets, had been found at the recent opening of a mound and that it was hoped to open others.

Basil Brown and Charles Phillips: 1938-1939

In 1910, a mansion with fifteen bedrooms was built a short distance from the mounds and in 1926 the mansion and its arable land was purchased by Colonel Frank Pretty, a retired military officer who had recently married. In 1934, Pretty died, leaving a widow Edith Pretty
Edith Pretty
-Early life:Pretty was born at Elland, Yorkshire on 1 August 1883, the younger of two daughters of Robert and Elizabeth Dempster. The Dempsters were industrialists who amassed considerable wealth from the manufacture of equipment related to the gas industry...

 and young son. Following her bereavement, Mrs Pretty became interested in Spiritualism, a religion that placed belief in the idea that the spirits of the deceased could be contacted. Some of her Spiritualist friends claimed to have seen 'shadowy figures' around the mounds and one had a vision of a man on a white horse there. Pretty's nephew, a dowser
Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials, as well as so-called currents of earth radiation , without the use of scientific apparatus...

, repeatedly detected the presence of buried gold from what is now known to be the ship-mound, reflecting a claim around 1900 by an elderly resident of Woodbridge, of "untold gold" lying under the Sutton Hoo mounds.

Such occurrences caught Mrs Pretty's interest and in 1937 she decided to organise an excavation of the mounds. Through the Ipswich Museum
Ipswich Museum
Ipswich Museum is a registered museum of culture, history and natural heritage located on High Street in Ipswich, the County Town of the English county of Suffolk...

, she obtained the services of Basil Brown
Basil Brown
Basil John Wait Brown was a farmer, archaeologist, amateur astronomer and author who most famously discovered the buried ship at Sutton Hoo and excavated its sandy outline on the eve of war in 1939....

, a self-taught Suffolk archaeologist who had taken up full-time investigations of Roman sites for the museum. In June 1938, Pretty took him to the site, offered him accommodation and a wage of 30 shillings a week, and suggested that he start digging at Mound 1. Because it had been disturbed by earlier grave diggers, Brown, in consultation with the Ipswich Museum, decided instead to open three smaller mounds (2, 3 and 4). These only revealed fragmented artefacts, as the mounds had been robbed of valuable items. In Mound 2 he found iron ship-rivets and a disturbed chamber burial that contained unusual fragments of metal and glass artefacts. At first it was undecided as to whether they were Early Anglo-Saxon or Viking
Viking Age
Viking Age is the term for the period in European history, especially Northern European and Scandinavian history, spanning the late 8th to 11th centuries. Scandinavian Vikings explored Europe by its oceans and rivers through trade and warfare. The Vikings also reached Iceland, Greenland,...

 objects. The Ipswich Museum then became involved with the excavations: all the finds became part of the museum's collection.

In May 1939, Brown began work on Mound 1, helped by Pretty's gamekeeper and gardener. He drove a trench from the east end and discovered ship-rivets in position. The colossal size of the find became apparent. After several weeks of patiently removing earth from the ship's hull, they reached the burial chamber.

The following month, Charles Phillips
Charles Phillips (archaeologist)
Charles William Phillips was a British archaeologist best known for leading the 1939 excavation of the Sutton Hoo burial ship, an intact collection of Anglo-Saxon grave-goods, possibly that of the 7th century East Anglian king Raedwald.He was the spouse of Margaret Mann Phillips the Erasmus...

 of Cambridge University, having heard rumours of a ship discovery. He was taken to Sutton Hoo by Mr Maynard, the Ipswich Museum curator, and was staggered by what he saw. Within a short time, following discussions with the Ipswich Museum, the British Museum, the Science Museum
Science museum
A science museum or a science centre is a museum devoted primarily to science. Older science museums tended to concentrate on static displays of objects related to natural history, paleontology, geology, industry and industrial machinery, etc. Modern trends in museology have broadened the range of...

, and Office of Works, Phillips had taken over responsibility for the excavation of the burial chamber. Initially, Phillips and the British Museum instructed Brown to cease excavating until they could get their team assembled, but he continued working, something which may have saved the site from being looted by treasure hunters. Phillips' team included W.F. Grimes and O.G.S. Crawford
O. G. S. Crawford
Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford was an English archaeologist and a pioneer in the use of aerial photographs for deepening archaeological understanding of the landscape.-Early life:...

 of the Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey , an executive agency and non-ministerial government department of the Government of the United Kingdom, is the national mapping agency for Great Britain, producing maps of Great Britain , and one of the world's largest producers of maps.The name reflects its creation together with...

, Peggy and Stuart Piggott
Stuart Piggott
Stuart Ernest Piggott CBE was a British archaeologist best known for his work on prehistoric Wessex.Born in Petersfield, Hampshire, Piggott was educated at Churcher's College and on leaving school in 1927 took up a post as assistant at Reading Museum where he developed an expertise in Neolithic...

, and other friends and colleagues.

The need for secrecy and various vested interests led to confrontation between Phillips and the Ipswich Museum. In 1935–6 Phillips and his friend Grahame Clark had taken control of the society. The curator, Mr Maynard then turned his attention to developing Brown's work for the museum. Phillips, who was hostile towards the museum's honorary president, Reid Moir, F.R.S., had now reappeared, and he deliberately excluded Moir and Maynard from the new discovery at Sutton Hoo. After Ipswich Museum prematurely announced the discovery, reporters attempted to access the site, so Mrs Pretty paid for two policemen to guard the site 24 hours a day.

The finds, having been packed and removed to London, were brought back for a treasure trove
Treasure trove
A treasure trove may broadly be defined as an amount of money or coin, gold, silver, plate, or bullion found hidden underground or in places such as cellars or attics, where the treasure seems old enough for it to be presumed that the true owner is dead and the heirs undiscoverable...

 inquest held that autumn at Sutton
Sutton, Suffolk
Sutton is a village and a civil parish on the B1083 road, in the Suffolk Coastal district, in the county of Suffolk, England. Sutton has a pub, a post office and a place of worship. There is also the hamlet of Sutton Street and the Sutton Common estate nearby....

 village hall, where it was decided that since the treasure was buried without the intention to recover it, it was the property of Mrs Pretty as landowner. Pretty decided to bequeath the treasure as a gift to the nation, so that the meaning and excitement of her discovery could be shared by everyone.

When war broke out in September 1939, the grave-goods were put in storage. Sutton Hoo was used as a training ground for military vehicles. Phillips and colleagues produced important publications in 1940.

Rupert Bruce-Milford: 1965-1971

Following Britain's victory in 1945, the Sutton Hoo artefacts were removed from storage. A team, led by Rupert Bruce-Mitford, from the British Museum's Department of British and Medieval Antiquities, determined their nature and helped to reconstruct and replicate the sceptre and helmet. They also oversaw the conservation of the artefacts, to protect them and enable them to be viewed by the public.

From analysing the data collected in 1938-39, Bruce-Milford concluded that there were still unanswered questions. As a result of his interest in excavating previously unexplored areas of the Sutton Hoo site, a second archaeological investigation was organised and in 1965, a British Museum team, later described by Carver as being on a "truly impressive scale", began work, continuing until 1971. The ship-burial site, overseen by Bruce-Milford, had not been backfilled in the 1930s, so that a plaster cast
Plaster cast
A plaster cast is a copy made in plaster of another 3-dimensional form. The original from which the cast is taken may be a sculpture, building, a face, a fossil or other remains such as fresh or fossilised footprints – particularly in palaeontology .Sometimes a...

 could be taken from the re-exposed ship impression and a fiberglass
Glass fiber is a material consisting of numerous extremely fine fibers of glass.Glassmakers throughout history have experimented with glass fibers, but mass manufacture of glass fiber was only made possible with the invention of finer machine tooling...

 shape produced. The mound was later restored to its pre-1939 appearance. The team also determined the limits of Mound 5 and investigated evidence of prehistoric activity on the original land-surface. They scientifically analysed and reconstructed some of the finds.

The three volumes of Bruce-Mitford's definitive text, The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, were published in 1975, 1978 and 1983.

Martin Carver: 1983-1992

In 1978 a committee was formed in order to mount a third, and even larger excavation at Sutton Hoo. Backed by the Society of Antiquaries of London
Society of Antiquaries of London
The Society of Antiquaries of London is a learned society "charged by its Royal Charter of 1751 with 'the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries'." It is based at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London , and is...

, the committee proposed an investigation to be led by Philip Rahtz
Philip Rahtz
Philip Arthur Rahtz was a British archaeologist.Rahtz was born in Bristol. After leaving Bristol Grammar School, he became an accountant before serving with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. During war service, Rahtz became friends with the archaeologist Ernest Greenfield...

 from the University of York
University of York
The University of York , is an academic institution located in the city of York, England. Established in 1963, the campus university has expanded to more than thirty departments and centres, covering a wide range of subjects...

 and Rupert Bruce-Milford, but the British Museum's reservations led to the committee deciding to collaborate with the Ashmolean Museum
Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street, Oxford, England, is the world's first university museum...

. The committee recognised that much had changed in archaeology since the early 1970s. The Conservatives'
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 privatisation policies signalled a decrease in state support for such projects, whilst the emergence of post-processualism in archaeological theory
Archaeological theory
Archaeological theory refers to the various intellectual frameworks through which archaeologists interpret archaeological data. There is no one singular theory of archaeology, but many, with different archaeologists believing that information should be interpreted in different ways...

 moved many archaeologists towards focussing on concepts such as social change. The Ashmolean's involvement convinced the British Museum and the Society of Antiquaries to help fund the project. In 1982, Martin Carver from the University of York was appointed to run the excavation, with a research design aimed at exploring "the politics, social organisation and ideology" of Sutton Hoo. Despite opposition by those who considered that funds available could be better used for rescue archaeology
Rescue archaeology
Rescue archaeology, sometimes called "preventive" or "salvage" archaeology, is archaeological survey and excavation carried out in areas threatened by, or revealed by, construction or other development...

, in 1983 the project went ahead.

Carver believed in restoring the overgrown site, much of which was riddled with rabbit warrens. After the site was surveyed using new techniques, the topsoil was stripped across an area that included Mounds 2, 5, 6, 7, 17 and 18 and a new map of soil patterns and intrusions was produced that showed that the mounds had been sited in relation to prehistoric and Roman enclosure patterns. Anglo-Saxon graves of execution victims were found which were determined to be younger than the primary mounds. Mound 2 was re-explored and afterwards bebuilt. Mound 17, a previously undisturbed burial, was found to contain a young man, his weapons and goods and a separate grave for a horse. A substantial part of the gravefield was left unexcavated for the benefit of future investigators and as yet unknown scientific methods.


The ship-burial treasure was presented to the nation by the owner, Mrs Pretty, and was at the time the largest gift made to the British Museum by a living donor. The principal items are now permanently on display at the British Museum. A display of the original finds excavated in 1938 from Mounds 2, 3 and 4, and replicas of the most important items from Mound 1, can be seen at the Ipswich Museum.

In the 1990s, the Sutton Hoo site, including Sutton Hoo House, was given to the English National Trust by the Trustees of the Annie Tranmer Trust. At Sutton Hoo's visitor centre and Exhibition Hall, opened in March 2002, the newly-found hanging bowl and the Bromeswell Bucket, finds from the equestrian grave and a recreation of the burial chamber and its contents can be seen.

External links