Sutton Hoo

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By Gillian Goddard — lecturer, Liverpool Hope University

The discovery of the Anglo-Saxon burial ship at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk was one of the most important archaeological finds in British history

The Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon ship burial was excavated in 1939. It is located near Woodbridge in Suffolk, on land that once belonged to Mrs Edith Pretty. It was at her request and cost that, in 1938, a local archaeologist began to excavate the burial mounds. The following year, the famous ship burial was uncovered in the largest of the mounds – with its grave goods intact. There was another ship burial at Sutton Hoo, though this was much smaller and had been robbed.

Contents of the grave

The grave goods at Sutton Hoo are amongst the finest ever excavated in Britain. From the type of artefacts discovered and the quality of the finds- several gold items, decorated with fine jewels – it is thought that this was a royal burial site for a warrior king, probably Raedwald, King of East Anglia who died around 625AD. Surprisingly, there was no surviving evidence of a body. This has led some archaeologists to conclude that the site could have been a memorial rather than a grave. An alternative theory is that the body completely dissolved in the acidic environment over time. This is a plausible assumption and is an issue that children can discuss and decide upon for themselves.

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