Ship

Mrs Pretty (centre) and friends watching excavation of mound 1 burial chamber 1939

 

Helmet

Helmet

shoulder clasp

Shoulder Clasps set with garnets & millefiori glass

 

shoulder clasp

Shoulder Clasps

 

shoulder clasp

Shoulder Clasp Detail

 

sceptre

Scepter

 

shield

Shield

 

Bird of prey

Bird of prey ornamentation from shield

 

Silver Bowls

Sliver Bowls

 

Silver Bowls

Sliver Bowls

 

Sword

Sword

 

Sword Hilt

Sword hilt detail

 

Gold buckle

Gold buckle (belt buckle)

 

gold buckle detail

Gold buckle detail

 

drinking horn

Drinking horn (one of a pair - reconstruction)

 

Hanging Bowl

Hanging Bowl

 

Hanging Bowl Detail

Hanging bowl detail

 

purse lid

Purse lid

 

purse lid detail

Purse lid - detail

 

coins

Coins

 

lyre

Lyre (reconstruction)

 

garnet cloisonne detail

Garnet cloisonné detail

 

mound 7

View of mound 7 showing robber trench (foreground)

 

Sandbody

Sandbody prone on back

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

Sandbody

Sandbody flexed in coffin/box

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

Sandbody

Sandbody with timber remains (possibly gallows)

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

Warrior Grave

Grave of young warrior

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

Warrior Grave

Partly excavated grave of young warrior - the coffin edge can be clearly seen

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

Horse grave

Grave of horse

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

2 burials originally under one mound

2 burials originally under one mound

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

Snaffle bit

Snaffle bit with ornamented gilt-bronze cheek pieces and strap connectors

 

Bone Comb

Bone Comb - double sided

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

Mound 2

Mound 2 excavated 1983 -1987 by the Sutton Hoo Research Trust led by Martin Carver. Reconstructed in 1993

Mound 2 was reconstructed in 1993 using evidence from the 1980's excavations. The original height of the mound (approximately 4m) was calculated from the volume of the quarry-ditch.

 

Mound 2

Excavating Mound 2 in the 1980's

Image courtesy of N Macbeth

 

The
Sutton Hoo
Society

Sutton Hoo Online Tour

The Sutton Hoo
Online Tour

Welcome to the online tour of Sutton Hoo. Please click a hotspot for further information about the location.

MOUND 1 - the great ship burial

In 1939, at the request of Mrs Edith Pretty, the owner of the Sutton Hoo Estate, Basil Brown, a local archaeologist, began excavating the largest Mound on the site. Once the significance of the excavation became apparent, a group of professional archaeologists was brought together under the direction of Charles Phillips to continue and complete the excavation of the Mound 1 burial chamber.

Further excavations and investigations were undertaken between 1965 and 1971 by the British Museum specifically to answer a number of questions posed by the 1939 excavations, which were then being written up by Rupert Bruce-Mitford.

Unlike Mound 2 (the other Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo) which had been extensively robbed, Mound 1 survived intact through a complete stroke of luck. At some time during the medieval period some of the soil from the west end of the mound was removed, probably when a bank and ditch was constructed, this altered the outline of the mound. Later, during the sixteenth century, an attempted robbery was made - the robbers who thought they were digging in the centre of the mound missed the central burial chamber by a few feet.

In 1939, Basil Brown started to dig into Mound 1 from the eastern end and discovered undisturbed iron ship rivets - by following the line of these rivets an Anglo-Saxon ship of over 27 metres in length was revealed, containing a central burial chamber with a remarkable burial deposit. The evidence strongly suggests the burial to be that of Raedwald, King of East Anglia who ruled from c.599 to 625AD. The burial deposit, the richest ever found in Britain, is on display in the British Museum.

Over time the timbers of the ship rotted away in the acid soil leaving behind a sand-impression. The burial chamber had been constructed in the centre of the ship. The deposit within the chamber contained over 260 artefacts, magnificent in their diversity and craftsmanship. The treasure included weapons, symbolic objects, gold and garnet jewellery, Byzantine silver, personal items, and objects associated with music and feasting. The design of the king's helmet was clearly of Swedish influence, tying in the connection between the ruling family of East Anglia and their Swedish ancestral roots.

The layout of the items showed that the more personal artifacts lay towards the centre, along the keel line, surrounding the body-space. There were no visible remains of a body, all organic parts having completely decomposed in the acidic soil. Later research revealed traces of phosphates indicating that a body had originally been present.

Please click on the image thumbnails to view the large image.

mound 1 ship grave
mound 1 ship grave
Basil Brown

 

Treasure from Mound 1

Please click on the image thumbnails to view the large image.

helmet
shoulder clasp
shoulder clasp
shoulder clasp
sceptre
shield
bird of prey
silver bowls
silver bowls
sword
sword hilt
gold buckle
gold buckle detail
drinking horn
hanging bowl
hanging bowl detail
purse lid
purse lid detail
coins
Lyre reconstruction
garnet cloisonne work

 

Mound 7

This mound contained a cremated burial in a bronze bowl. During its excavation in 1990/1 it was found to have been robbed. Evidence suggests that this occurred most probably as part of a concerted excavation campaign in the nineteenth century which included at least mounds 2, 5, 6 and 7. A report in the Ipswich Journal of 1860 refers to these excavations, but suggests that only one mound was investigated, which was almost certainly mound 2.

mound7

Mound 7 under excavation in 1990: showing robber trench (foreground) Photo: Nigel Macbeth - click on the image to view large version

Anti-glider ditches

Anti-glider ditches were put across large tracts of Suffolk heathlands during the Second World War to discourage enemy gliders. The ditches were constructed using drag-lines, which dug the ditch and piled the spoil in heaps alongside. Most of the ditches have disappeared because of ploughing, but where the landscape has been preserved, they resemble large 'zips' when viewed from the air. Two are clearly visible on the ground at Sutton Hoo.

Medieval Trackway

This visible linear feature marks the line of a medieval trackway which crossed the Suffolk Sandlings Heathland, passing through the group of burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. It eventually led down the escarpment to a ferry crossing on the shore of the River Deben, linking it to Woodbridge on the opposite side. The medieval date of the trackway was established during the 1960s excavation campaign, and again during further excavations in the 1980s.

Mound 5

This mound has been ploughed out or removed at an unknown date. The original mound make-up was quarried from pits, rather than a ditch. Some of these were cut through by the quarry ditches of Mound 2 to the north and Mound 6 to the south - so Mound 5 could have been among the earliest to be built.

During the 1980's excavations, archaeologists discovered a central cremation, probably male, with fragments of bone showing a skull cleft by nine blade cuts from an axe blade or sword. Other fragments, such as those from a copper-alloy bowl, knife, and bone gaming pieces, suggest the cremation of a high status individual. Cremated animal bone was also found within the grave, suggesting the Anglo-Saxon ritual of burning animals on the funerary pyre.

Archaeologists also discovered a number of burials around Mound 5 which were at odds with the central cremation. The remains of 17 bodies - 'sandbodies' (so named because after the bodies decayed, little remained but moulds made of sand) - were found in shallow graves. All of them had been executed. Some had been mutilated, tied up or dismembered. It is thought the bodies were associated with those found just outside the main burial site, known as the Eastern Periphery Group, where 23 similar graves were discovered, but not associated with any mound. Post holes (gallows) were discovered nearby, indicating that this was an early execution site.

Recent research has demonstrated that public execution at a Cwealmstow, or Killing Place, was a feature of later Anglo-Saxon Christian kingship. The public gallows site was later moved to Wilford Bridge, just north of Sutton Hoo, clearly defined on the Norden map of 1601. By the mid 7th century the dominance of the Kingdom of East Anglia was lost to Mercia (West Midlands). A new era had begun; the old beliefs and alliances were swept away and replaced by a new Christian authority. Perhaps that authority used the pagan cemetery at Sutton Hoo as a grim reminder to the local community where their loyalties should lie.

Please click on the image thumbnails to view the large image.

Sandbody
Sandbody
Sandbody

 

Mound 17

Mound 17 is the only intact burial mound, (other than mound 1) known on the site to date. The two graves, covered by one mound, lie next to each other. Evidence showed that an attempted robbery had, at some time, taken place. The robbers had dug into the middle of the mound, missed the graves lying on either side, and left empty-handed.

In 1991 archaeologists excavated the two graves. The first contained the body of a young male warrior in an oak coffin. Grave goods included a sword in a wooden scabbard, a belt buckle with garnet inlay; a knife in a leather sheath, and a purse containing some garnets and a piece of millefiori glass. Outside the coffin lay a shield with central iron boss; a copper alloy cauldron; some bowls; an iron bound tub or bucket; a ceramic pot, two spear heads; a haversack (containing ribs of lamb), and a bone comb.

At the west end of the grave a block contained the corroded metal and leatherwork of a horse harness and bridle, including snaffle bit and ornamented fittings the first Anglo-Saxon harness to be excavated. This was sent complete to the British Museum where it was dissected and reassembled.

The adjacent grave contained the large carcass of a horse, part skeleton and part sand-body. It was male, about 14-14.2 hands high, probably a North European tough pony-type breed which would have well-suited the conditions and climate of East Anglia.

Please click on the image thumbnails to view the large image.

Warrior Grave
Warrior Grave
Horse grave
Mound 17 Burials
Snaffle Bit
Bone Comb

 

Mound 2

This mound was excavated by Basil Brown in 1938. He found a large number of iron ship rivets. Unlike Mound 1 where the rivets were found in-situ, here they had been scattered in various places around the mound, indicating that it had been extensively robbed, probably on more than one occasion. By 1938, only fragments from the burial survived, but there was enough evidence to suggest that it was the grave of a high status individual with a rich burial deposit.

It was subsequently re-excavated in the 1980's by the Sutton Hoo Research Project led by Martin Carver. Evidence showed that, unlike Mound 1 where the burial chamber was built within the ship, in Mound 2 a rectangular timber-lined chamber was originally constructed beneath ground level - a large Anglo-Saxon ship was then placed (on its keel) on top of the chamber roof - finally the soil was heaped on top to create the mound.

The Mound 2 seen today at Sutton Hoo was re-constructed in 1992 based on the evidence from the 1980's excavations.

Please click on the image thumbnails to view the large image.

Mound 2
Mound 2

 

Mound 1
Mound 7
Anti-glider ditches
Medieval Trackway
Mound 5
Mound 17
Mound 2