Sutton Hoo: Anglo-Saxon Treasure Trove

Part 2: Who They Think It Was

Kingly regalia was found around the coffin, as were 10 silver bowls, two silver spoons, a set of spears, an ornate sword still in its scabbard, a set of mail armor, and a gold-encrusted belt buckle. One of the more famous finds was a large ornate iron helmet, decorated with pictures of warriors and animals, including a face mask showing a ferocious dragon-looking creature. Also in the mound was a massive shield, one of the most ornate from this period ever found.

Elsewhere in the ship mound were found a pair of drinking horns made from the horns of an aurochs, an animal now extinct, and large numbers of metal objects and expensive textiles. Scattered around the rest of the mound were other trappings of wealth such as bronze cauldrons, iron chains, elaborately carved bowls, a royal scepter, and a collection of silver plates, one bearing the stamp of a European emperor. The overall picture is of a collection of goods owned by a very important and/or rich man.

Also found in the mound were a large number of coins that date to before the death of Redwald, East Anglia's most famous ruler. The coins are not Anglo-Saxon in origin but, rather, came from a Frankish kingdom in Europe, suggesting even more that the person buried in the ship was of high status.

Another, smaller ship burial was found as well, with much smaller trappings than the regal one.

In another of the Sutton Hoo mounds, archaeologists found remains of a young man who was buried with his horse. The man was buried with his sword and scabbard, in an oak coffin. Situated around the coffin were found two spears, a shield, a cauldron, an iron bucket, a leather pouch, some animal bones, and a bridle. The young man's grave was not the only one inside the mound; the horse was buried in an adjoining grave.

The discovery of the Sutton Hoo treasures began in 1939 with the suspicions of Edith Pretty, a woman living in the area. She saw something odd in the number of mounds in the Sutton Hoo area and asked archaeologists to investigate. What they dug up has been extremely significant in terms of broadening the modern understanding of life back then.

Archaeologists found the helmet shattered; years of painstaking reconstruction later, the helmet has become a symbol of the overall Sutton Hoo find, which is now a National Trust site, one that can be visited by the public. The helmet and other treasures can be seen in the British Museum and elsewhere.

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