29 November 2008

Sutton Hoo

The Oxford DNB has put up the Sutton Hoo ship burial as one of its biographies for the week (available till Thursday). An archaeological dig at Sutton Hoo in the 1930s found a ship burial with splendid grave goods from the early 7th century. (Steven J. Plunkett's picture of model of ship burial used under GNU Free Documentation Licence.)

Location of Sutton Hoo (the site itself is quite visible if you zoom in):

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The Sutton Hoo Society's website has a (not very) interactive map of the site, a good picture gallery and some archaeological information. The goods found were donated to the British Museum by the owner of the land at the time of the excavation, Mrs Edith May Pretty. The National Trust now owns the site and has information for visitors.

The most likely candidate for who was buried at Sutton Hoo is Rædwald, who was king of East Anglia and bretwald (high king of England) and died some time between 616 and 627. Bede has some passing references to Rædwald ( II.12 and 11.15), but nothing that would have led one to suspect the magnificence of this discovery. However, since Rædwald was a king who accepted Christianity and then changed his mind, and a king of East Anglia at that (Bede's focus is on Augustine's first mission to Kent and then on Northumbria), Bede would not have much to say about him. Rædwald was one of the Wuffing dynasty, and Dr. Sam Newton's site on the Wuffings naturally discusses Sutton Hoo in some detail.

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