By about 600, England was divided into small Anglo-Saxon kingdoms each ruled by a king. Much of what we know about the Anglo-Saxons comes from graves like the one discovered at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.Near the River Deben in Suffolk, at Sutton Hoo, are eleven mounds or ‘barrows’ dating back to the 7th century. In 1939 archaelogists explored the largest mound and discovered a ship buried in the mound. On a small hill above the river Deben in Suffolk is a field, covered with grassy mounds of different sizes. For several hundred years what lay under the mounds remained a mystery.
What happened at Sutton Hoo?
About 66 years ago, an archaeologist called Basil Brown started digging under the mounds. The mounds are Anglo Saxon graves and the contents show the technology and traditions of a culture that was in England 1,600 years ago. Basil discovered that the reason why it was so big. It was hiding a huge wooden ship buried under the soil. The ship had rotted away, but the shape of it was clearly left behind in the earth. The ship was 27 metres long and 4.25 meters wide at its widest point (almost ninety-feet long and fifteen-feet wide). It would have taken about 20 oarsmen on either side to row it! The ship had been put there and used as a grave. Archaeologists think that the ship was dragged to the top of the hill from the river below. It was then placed in a ditch that had been specially dug for it. A hut was built in the middle of the ship and the coffin and treasures placed inside. The ship was then completely covered with a mound of earth. The person was buried in the ship because they believed that this was the best way to reach the After Life.
What did they find?
The objects in the grave would have been the personal possessions or weapons of the person ‘buried’ with the ship to use in the afterlife. A sword was found alongside the body, by the right arm. The end of the handle of the sword was made of gold and contained a precious red jewel. The sword was made of iron. The sword was the most important weapon in Anglo-Saxon times. It was often passed down from father to son. Warriors were buried with their swords beside them. The person in the ship was buried with lots of expensive household goods, including rich clothes, pieces for playing games, and a lyre (a bit like a guitar). This large bronze bowl is one of three that would have hung on tripods in a great hall. It was filled with wine or water, so that people could dip their cups into it, or wash their fingers after feasting. The silver from the ship burial is the largest collection of silver ever recovered from a grave. It was probably used as tableware during feasting in the great hall. The bowls were made in the Middle East in about AD 500. Finding them in the grave tells us that trade between England and the rest of Europe was common in Anglo Saxon times. The Anglo-Saxons liked to show off their wealth. This is the lid of a leather purse that would have hung from a belt. The purse, with gold decoration, is the richest one found from the Saxons time. The purse contained 37 gold coins. These coins helped to date the burial and provide some clues about who was buried in the grave. The coins date around AD 613.
Were all Anglo-Saxons buried in ships?
Ship burials were reserved for the most powerful people. Sometimes the burial ships were cast adrift in the sea, sometimes the ships were buried on land. Important men, especially if they were warriors, were buried with weapons such as a sword, spears and a shield. Most ordinary Anglo-Saxon people were cremated (burnt) after they died, their remain were placed in urns and buried in the ground. The burial was of an important Anglo-Saxon chief, probably King Raedwald who ruled East Anglia in the seventh century. He was one of the most powerful Saxon kings.
Who made the discovery at Sutton Hoo?
What is the purpose of this text?
List words and phrases that identify information to be historical and why?
List three things that were discovered at the Burial ground.
What evidence is there in the text to suggest the person found at the burial was a rich warrior?
Write a diary entry to show the feelings of the person who discovered the sight.