Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, is the site of two early medieval cemeteries that date from the 6th to 7th centuries.
There are around eighteen burial mounds within the Royal Burial Ground. Many have been so eroded over the centuries that it is hard to know exactly how many there were.
The burials date to the seventh-century AD. The people buried here left no written records, so it is impossible to know exactly who they were, but historians strongly suspect that Sutton Hoo was the cemetery for the royal dynasty of East Anglia, the Wuffingas, who claimed descent from the god Woden.
Most of the mounds were robbed, largely in the Tudor period, and much of what was there was lost, but two mounds escaped this fate – the Great Ship Burial or King’s Mound One and the Horseman’s Mound.
Sutton Hoo is England’s Valley of the Kings, and the Anglo-Saxon ship burial found in the King’s Mound is the richest burial ever found in northern Europe.
The Sutton Hoo helmet is an ornately decorated Anglo-Saxon helmet found during a 1939 excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship-burial. It was buried around 625 and is widely believed to have belonged to King Rædwald of East Anglia; its elaborate decoration may have given it a secondary function akin to a crown.
1,400 years ago, a king or great warrior of East Anglia was laid to rest in a 90ft ship, surrounded by his extraordinary treasures.
The 27 metre long Anglo-Saxon ship from Sutton Hoo no longer exists. It was made of oak and after 1,300 years in the acidic soil, it rotted away leaving only its ‘ghost’ imprinted in the sand.
Although all physical trace has gone, perhaps the ship has sailed on into the next world, bearing its captain on new adventures. Grave robbers tried to rob the King’s Mound, but missed the treasure by just a couple of metres.
As the landowner at the time of the discovery, Edith Pretty was declared the owner of the priceless Anglo-Saxon treasures. She gave them all to the all to the nation and they can still be seen and enjoyed today at the British Museum.
The Dig is a 2021 drama film, based on the 2007 novel of the same name by John Preston, which reimagines the events of the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo.
The film, about the class-defying friendship between landowner Edith Pretty and self-taught archaeologist Basil Brown, along with the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, is set to be released on Netflix on January 29th 2021.