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Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo is an area near Woodbridge in the county of Suffolk, England and home of one of Britain's most important archaeological discoveries of all time. It lies on a small hill above the river Deben and appears as a field covered with grassy mounds of different sizes. It is the site of two 6th- and early 7th-century cemeteries. The site in East Anglia is approximately 7 miles from the North Sea and overlooks a tidal estuary, which would have been an important entry point into this part of (now) Great Britain during Anglo Saxon times.

For hundreds of years, nobody knew what lay under the mounds, until 1938 when an archaeologist from Ipswich Museum, Basil Brown, started digging  up some of the mounds (today known as mounds 2, 3 and 4). In these mounds, he found some broken Anglo-Saxon objects, buried alongside their owners. Most of the remains inside these mounds had been stolen, although unperturbed,  Basil Brown continued his excavations with the biggest mound on the site (today, known as mound 1). It is within this mound, in 1939, he was to discover one of the most important set of Anglo-Saxon objects ever found anywhere else before; inside mound one, or the king's mound was found an undisturbed  90ft ship within which the body of a notable person was laid to rest. Inside, a great chamber was filled with weapons and armour, high quality jewellery and various feasting items. It is generally thought most likely that Rædwald (c. 599 - c. 624), the ruler of the East Angles, is the person buried in the ship. Further discoveries were made across the site including underneath mound 17 which contained a double burial of a warrior with his personal effects alongside his horse and archaeological work on the site has continued with various campaigns, including in the late 1960's and late 1980's.

This amazing discovery at Sutton Hoo has provided a very important source of information for historians (including art-historians)because of the insights it gives into the history of early medieval England, where elsewhere much evidence had come from myths, legends and old documents.

The land at Sutton Hoo was part of an estate owned by a widow, Edith Pretty, whom in 1937 decided to organise the mound excavations which were to be undertaken by Basil Brown. When it was realised what the significance of the site was, Mrs Pretty was also involved in organising its security. As the landowner, she was subsequently declared the owner of the priceless Anglo-Saxon treasures. Admirably, she gave them all to the British Museum in London, where today most of the recovered artefacts from the ancient burial mounds can be seen. At Sutton Hoo itself, there is an award-winning visitors centre which has a reconstruction of the ship burial chamber and many original and replica artefacts on display (including an original prince's sword). The various ancient burial mounds can be viewed from footpaths which lead from the visitors centre. Also, it is possible to see the estate's Edwardian house and wander around it's beautiful woodland walks.

A photograph of one of just four complete helmets to survive from Anglo-Saxon England and which was found at Sutton Hoo is shown on this website in a thumbnail galley of selected objects on display at the British Museum. Click Here to view (then click on photo number 15).

Further Reading:

1. The National Trust Website Here

2. The Sutton Hoo Society Here

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