Sutton Hoo

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Sutton Hoo parade helmet (British Museum, restored). Although this kind of helmet is based on late Roman types, the nearest immediate connections are with the contemporary Vendel Age in Sweden, for example the decorative bronze panels closely resembles similar work from a helmet found in one of the royal mounds in Old Uppsala.

Sutton Hoo, (Template:Gbmapping) near Woodbridge, Suffolk, is the site of an early 7th century Anglo-Saxon ship burial, discovered in 1939 that contains a wealth of artifacts. Sutton Hoo is of primary importance to early medieval historians because it sheds light on a period in English history that otherwise has little documented evidence remaining. It is one of the most remarkable archaeological finds in England because of its age, size, far reaching connections, completeness, beauty, rarity and historical importance.


Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo is on a high bluff on the left bank of the River Deben about 7 miles from the sea. Burial mounds have been discovered here, and often robbed, since 1601. Modern archaeological investigation began in 1938 and in 1939 the Sutton Hoo ship burial site was discovered. Further excavations were undertaken in the late 1960s and also between 1986 and 1992.

There are many barrows, or burial mounds, at the location and Sutton Hoo refers specifically to the ship burial at mound 1. Mound 1 is made up of twenty barrows, most of which are still unexplored by modern methods. In addition, twenty-seven entirely different burials have been found outside the mounds. The circular layout of twelve of these around mound 1 strengthens the theory that they were perhaps sacrificial burials made at the same time as Sutton Hoo. Other mounds at the site include mound 2 where a cremated man and horse were found; and mound 3 where another ship burial was found, although not nearly as large as mound 1 and had been robbed, probably in the 1860s.

Sutton Hoo is dated to circa 625 CE by gold coins found with the treasure. The ship is 90 feet in length with an open deck and a burial chamber constructed mid-deck, and would have been powered by 40 oarsmen. It did not contain a functional keel, and there is debate if it held a real sail, but was overall of excellent craftsmanship, leading to the theory it was built specifically for the burial. Only the ships rivets survived because of soil acidity but impressions left in the ground allowed a detailed reconstruction.

The Sutton Hoo treasure is extensive. The artifacts have been removed from the site and are on display in the British Museum. Items include: gold and silver personal ornaments including cloisonne gold garnet shoulder-clasps, a great golden buckle, and a purse cover; weaponry including a highly decorative and world famous parade helmet, chain mail, six spears of different types, a sword, shield and an axe-hammer with an iron handle; silver bowls, a silver dish made in the Byzantine Empire; a bard's lyre; domestic items such as a cauldron with a suspension chain over 11 feet long; the remains of textiles of many kinds; a mysterious carved whetstone decoratively mounted in bronze.

A silver dish has a stamp dating it to the reign of Byzantine emperor Anastasius (r. 491-518). Other silver and bronze items came from the Mediterranean in more contemporary times. Three "hanging bowls" are of Celtic origin. Some objects have Christian links: two silver spoons are inscribed Saulos and Paulos in Greek lettering.


Although no human remains have been found, King Raedwald of East Anglia, who died at about the time of the burial, is the favorite candidate. The proximity of Sutton Hoo to a royal centre of authority at Rendlesham (4 miles north-east) indicate a connection between Sutton Hoo and the East Anglia royal house. The amount and value of the treasures found is indicative of the owner's "widespread connections" and appropriate for a king's burial.

Sutton Hoo is one of few comparable burial sites found outside of Scandinavia. The burial, helmet and shield are virtually identical to those found at the Vendel Age burial sites of Vendel and Valsgrde in Sweden suggesting very close ties to the royal dynasty of Sweden, the Scylfings of Beowulf. Another theory (Newton 1993) suggests that the Wuffinga dynasty was descended from the Wulfinga dynasty of Beowulf and Widsith, which also suggests Swedish, or rather Geatish, origins for the East Anglian dynasty (Newton 1993, see also Farrell 1972:272).

Archeologists connected with the site theorize that Christianity was beginning to make itself felt and high caste pagans responded with ever more elaborate pagan rituals. Cremation was now adopted, in defiance of Christian practice, leading up to the royal ship burial. Although he was accompanied by objects of Christian significance, his burial may have been attended by human sacrifice.


The Sutton Hoo treasure is a gift to the people of England by Edith May Pretty, the original owner of the property where it was discovered. Under English law she was found to be the rightful owner of the treasure hoard, but within days of the ruling she turned it over to public ownership.

The National Trust was preparing a visitor centre in the late 1980s and uncovered a new cemetery.

The discovery of Sutton Hoo provides a glimpse into England's past and further clarification of its national identity. The discovery in 1939 on the eve of the Second World War, when England as a nation was under threat, brought increased attention and interest to the site in the years that followed. Other Anglo-Saxon finds are made on an almost yearly basis throughout the country, such as caches of coins or broaches, but Sutton Hoo is still considered the greatest find of all time.

Some of the finds (for instance, a sceptre in the form of a whetstone)seem to physically embody Anglo Saxon concepts of kingship and the relationship between a king and his subjects.


  • Farrell, R.T., 1972. Beowulf, Swedes and Geats. Part 3. London.
  • Newton, S., 1993. The Origins of Beowulf and the Pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia. Cambridge.

External links

es:Sutton Hoo ja:サットン・フー


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