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Sutton Hoo Ship Burial

Updated on September 16, 2011

On a small hill above the river Deben in Suffolk is a strange-looking field, covered with grassy mounds of different sizes. For several hundred years what lay under them was a mystery.

Then in 1938, an archaeologist called Basil Brown started digging under mounds 2, 3 and 4, where he found a few, mostly broken, Anglo-Saxon objects which had been buried alongside their owner's bodies. Sadly, grave robbers had taken most of what was there. WIth a little more hope he started on the biggest mound, Mound 1.

He did not know that the treasures under Mound 1 would turn out to be the most amazing set of Anglo-Saxon objects ever found.

Mrs Pretty's Dream

Mrs Edith Pretty owned the land that the mounds were on. Everyday she looked out onto them and wondered what they were. One night in 1938, she had a vivid dream. In her dream she saw a helmeted rider on a horse. She saw the burial of a man and also flashes of gold.

She awoke the next morning remembering her dream and thought about it all that day. She visited a flower show and met a schoolmaster called Mr Redstone. She told him of her dream and he put her in touch with an archaeologist, Mr Basil Brown. And so it was that the mounds on Mrs Pretty's land came to be excavated.

The Treasure At Sutton Hoo

Over 250 artefacts were found in 1939 during the excavations at Sutton Hoo.

These included:

Apart from the jewels and weapons, lots of other objects were found in the burial chamber of the ship burial at Sutton Hoo. Some of them came from far away. The owner must have been very rich to bring them all the way to England.

There were 16 pieces of silver made in the Eastern Mediterranean:

A Byzantine silver dish (72.4 cm across) made during the Reign of Emperor Anastasius I (AD 491-518)

A silver fluted bowl and handles

A silver ladle.

A small silver cup.

10 shallow silver bowls

2 silver spoons inscribed with the names of 2 Christians: 'Saul' and 'Paul'

There was a large bronze 'Coptic' bowl with handles. Coptic means that it was made in ancient Egypt.

There was a big set of drinking vessels:

2 big curly drinking horns. The horns probably came from big bulls called 'aurochs'.

6 little bottles made of maplewood

8 little cups made of burr-wood.

They all had gold covered decorated silver plaques around their rims.

One of the most interesting things found was the remains of a wooden harp. This was a musical instrument. It would have been used by a minstrel when singing songs to a great lord or king.

Other objects included:

4 table knives with iron blades and bone handles.

A few odd counters from an unknown board game.

3 bronze 'hanging bowls' on chains.

A tub and 3 buckets. They were made of wood with iron bands to hold them together.

3 bronze cauldrons. One had an elaborate iron chain to hang it above a fire.

An iron lamp.

A pottery bottle.

Many of these items would have been useful when holding a feast in a great hall.

Sutton Hoo in the British Museum

Mrs Pretty gave all the treasure to the British Museum so that everyone could see it. It is still on display now.

The British Museum website shows many of the artefacts and gives many details about what they are.

Anglo Saxon Information Books

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