Wednesday, 1 August 2018

King Raedwald

Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk, is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries. I spent a day there in the company of my cousins, and the ghosts of ancient Anglo-Saxons.
There are around 20 earthen burial mounds in the Sutton Hoo area. Under one of those mounds excavated in 1938 was a ship burial.... yes, a whole wooden ship 89 feet (27m) long was hauled up the hill from the river estuary below and buried with a very important passenger, the body of an Anglo-Saxon warrior.
You can read details about the Sutton Hoo ship burial here and here.

The warrior was buried in an oak burial chamber inside the ship along with many of his valued possessions. The collection of 263 high status objects included weapons, silver cutlery, gold buckles, coins, and a distinctive full-face war helmet, many things that were needed in the afterlife.

The identity of the warrior is unknown, but it is believed to be King Raedwald, the most powerful of the English tribal kings. He was the son of Tytila of East Anglia, in the present day British counties of Suffolk and Norfolk. He reigned from about 599 until his death around 624. He was the first king of the East Angles to become a Christian, although he still maintained a pagan temple.... hedging his bets just to be sure!

A reconstruction of the king's burial chamber. Coins found at the burial are dated approximately at the time of Raedwald's death. Other items found are: An iron standard, a sceptre, spears, an iron-bound wooden bucket, a bronze bowl, a hanging bowl containing the remains of a musical instrument, drinking horns, a shield, a helmet, a sword, the iron head of an axe, the remains of a coat of mail, ten silver bowls, two silver spoons (engraved respectively with ‘Saul’ and ‘Paul’ in Greek), thirty-seven gold coins, three unstruck circular blanks, two small gold ingots, and various pieces of jewellery.
The iron warrior helmet found in the burial chamber, now on display at the British Museum.


A reconstruction of the warrior's shield.

A replica of the helmet was produced for the British Museum by the Royal Armouries.
Other burial mounds in the area have been excavated, with surprising results. A young man was buried with his horse, and a man and woman were buried with a horse and a dog. Another mound contained iron ship rivets from a small wooden ship. The cemetery also contained bodies of people who had died violently. Not all the mounds have been investigated. A fascinating place.

8 comments:

  1. What an amazing find - and yes, definitely a fascinating place. I do feel regretful about the animals that were buried with their owners though...

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  2. Absolutely fascinating! Love this post!

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  3. Archaeology has always fascinated me. The reproductions do a nice job of conveying what the originals would have looked like.

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  4. Absolutely fascinating Shammi, what an exciting discovery.. and more to come, incroyable!
    P.s. would love to send you some rain, it's bucketing down outside right now 😀

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  5. What an amazing cemetery and the finds are astounding.
    That mask is really something.
    Thanks for sharing these photos.

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  6. A very interesting and informative post. The replica of the helmet is incredible.

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