Archaeological Investigations at Sutton Hoo

A report on the Talk
The Archaeology of Sutton Hoo and the Treasures Found There
Thursday 19th March

This was a superbly presented and illustrated talk by Dr Angela Evans, retired head of the Anglo-Saxon Department of the British Museum.

Sutton Hoo, often thought of as a treasure laden ship burial excavated about 70 years ago is much more than that.  A major series of mounds, sited on ground overlooking an important river valley was the burial place for the upper echelon of local Anglo-Saxon society, the leaders, the warriors, their relatives and some of their animals have been unearthed over the years.

Many of the mounds appear to have collapsed but further investigation has revealed that they were robbed out in times past.  Furthermore recent excavations (1980s – 1990s) uncovered much new material from existing and previously uncovered burials.

Dr Evans’ knowledge of the major artifacts uncovered across northern, middle and eastern Europe and beyond to Asian regions has enabled a better understanding of trading routes of this period in history.  The raw materials, processes of manufacture, design, embellishment and decoration all contribute to the creation of patterns of movement and the advancement of peoples towards the British Isles.

The sheer quality of the workmanship and craftsmanship in the items on display and stored in the British Museum, the choice of base materials and the complexity of decoration make it quite obvious that these were grave goods of important people.

Heaving a 90 foot boat to its hilltop resting place must have been an enormous organizational task.  The items revealed on excavation show how incredibly technical and developed (despite the lack of specialized tools and equipment) this society had reached.  How lucky we are, that ancient graves, with the burial goods, i.e. the necessities for the next life, can still be found and researched and continue to give us more and more information about our ancestors.

Dr Evans’ presentation was not to be missed, her awareness of the Sutton Hoo site to date, is impressive, her knowledge of its history even more impressive.  She sold the whole concept of Anglo-Saxon life brilliantly to a limited, but very interested, audience.

Gerry Platten

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