A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - The royal burial site at Sutton Hoo, a few miles from the Suffolk coast, East England, is definitely the most famous of all Anglo-Saxon sites and mostly known for its outstanding funerary discoveries in Mound 1 that shed light on the war gear of early seventh-century Anglo-Saxon rulers.
Artist interpretation by Alan Sorrell of the moving of the burial ship over to the grave. Image credits: A.C. Evans, 1986 via Archaeology of Britain.
In the summer of 1939, an amateur archaeologist, Basil Brown (1888 – 1977) made one of the most exciting discoveries in British archaeology; they found tomb of an Anglo-Saxon, who had been buried there in the early 600s.
Sutton Hoo Excavations. Image credit: archaeology.co.uk/ Right: Helmet's reconstruction by Sheshen Eceni
In Mound No. 1 at Sutton Hoo, they found the great ancient ship and since then, the grave is known as “The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial”.
Among many priceless goods (armor, weapons, coins, intricate gold jewelry, silver drinking horns and trinkets, textiles, Byzantine treasures and fine clothes - all coming from all over Europe – there was also the famous Sutton Hoo helmet dated to 600– 650 AD.
Sutton Hoo burial ship. The ship upon excavation in 1939. The ship may be considered as a forerunner of the Viking ship. Credit: archaeology.co.uk/
The Sutton Hoo helmet is a remarkable example of Saxon craft.
In “The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial” A.C. Evens writes:
“The cap of the helmet was formed from a size piece of iron and it is divided into ornamental zones, each with detailed engraved the metalsmith who created it, due to the use of different metals…”
Careful excavation gradually exposed the whole ship, which is 90 feet (27.432 m) long (the biggest, most complete Anglo-Saxon ship ever found). This rich ship burial had, however – one mystery - there was no body in it.
People wondered whether this could be a cenotaph, a symbolic burial, where the body had been lost.
National Trust archaeologist Angus Wainwright has another theory suggesting that there was in fact, a body buried in the grave. However, the special acidic conditions of the soil caused the body dissolved away. What you have to remember is that a ship is a watertight vessel, and when you put it in the ground the water percolating through the soil builds up in it and it basically forms an acid bath, in which all these organic things like the body and the leatherwork and the wood dissolve away, leaving nothing.
Seventy eight years after the ship burial was discovered, the researchers still speculate over who was buried in the mound. One of the proposed candidates could be Raedwald, the last great king of East Anglia (East Anglia) from the Waffin family, who died about 625.
Long boat similar to the one found in Sutton Hoo. Image credit: The British Museum Press
Merovingian gold coins and decoration on two silver spoons found in the grave were analyzed and revealed that the grave belonged to the king who baptized, but later he decided to return to paganism, which Raedwald himself did.
As to the famous Sutton Hoo helmet, it is widely believed that it belonged to king Raedwald, who was not only King of East Anglia but king of all the kings of Britain.
Until the 1939 discovery of the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, it had been taken for granted that the oldest surviving long poem in Old English, “Beowulf” was pure fantasy.
The Sutton Hoo findings prove the historical value of many description and references found in this great epic poem.
Legendary Beowulf: Strong And Courageous Prince Of Geats Fighting Grendel And Dragon Monsters
Oseberg Ship: Astonishingly Well-Preserved Viking Burial Ship
Brutus Of Troy: First King Of Britain Or Just A Myth?
Apparently, there is also English-Scandinavian connection and it is related to the valuable objects found at Sutton Hoo. Researchers agree that the artifacts found at Sutton Hoo, display a very unique style, which - at the time of the Sutton Hoo burial - was already extinct in most parts of the world. Only in Scandinavia and certain parts of England the objects of similar style were continuously in use. This fact proves that trade existed between England and Scandinavia.
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer
Copyright © AncientPages.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of AncientPages.com
Expand for references
Rupert Bruce-Mitford - Sutton Hoo Ship Burial: A Handbook
A.C. Evens - The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial