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Sutton Hoo

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« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2007, 04:46:56 pm »

History

In 1940 H.M. Chadwick (a pre-eminent Anglo-Saxon historian) gave his opinion that the ship-burial was probably the grave of King Raedwald of the East Angles, who ruled c 599-c 624 AD.[116] The primary source for Raedwald is the Historia Ecclesiastica of the Venerable Bede, completed AD 731.

During the later 6th century (when the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were in process of formation), two great leaders, Ceawlin of Wessex and Ethelbert of Kent, in turn held dominion over all the rulers south of the River Humber (see Bretwalda).[117] In 597 a mission led by Saint Augustine arrived in Kent and began the first formal conversion of the English rulers and their people to Roman Christianity.[118] Raedwald was baptized in Kent, and (as Ethelbert grew old) he built up the leadership for his own nation of East Angles.[119]

In c 616 he was challenged by the Northumbrian ruler Aethelfrith, and defeated and slew him in a great battle.[120] Raedwald then set Edwin, a royal exile, to rule in Northumbria, and for the remainder of his life Raedwald held supreme rule (imperium) over the English.[121] He was the first southern ruler to hold Northumbria under such allegiance.

Raedwald did not establish unequivocal Christian rule,[122] but at his death Edwin acquired even greater dominion than Raedwald (except in Kent), and was baptized.[123] Through further conversions with Bishop Paulinus in Northumbria, Lindsey and East Anglia under the rule of Eorpwald (Raedwald's son),[124] by cementing Christian alliances with Sigebert of East Anglia (ruled c 629–636),[125] and by his own marriage to the sister of Eadbald of Kent (ruled c 616–640),[126] Edwin (ruled c 616–632) became the first English ruler with dominion north and south of the Humber in religious obedience to Christian Rome. Edwin is known to have cultivated the public behaviour of a Roman leader.[127]

The question 'Who was in the ship?' is finally unanswerable.[128] But given the exceptionally high quality of the materials (imported and commissioned) and the resources needed to assemble them, the imperial authority which the gold body equipment was intended to convey, the community involvement required in this unusual ritual at a cemetery reserved for an elite, the nearness of Sutton Hoo to a near-contemporary centre of royal power at Rendlesham, and the probable date-horizons, the identification with Raedwald still has widespread popular acceptance. From time to time other identifications are suggested.[129]

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« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2007, 04:48:33 pm »



Vendel era helmet, at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities.

Beowulf and Vendel

 
Vendel era helmet, at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities.It is debated whether the custom of furnished burial was explicitly pagan, or whether it was reaching a natural culmination when Christianity began to make its mark.[130]

Beowulf, the great surviving example of heroic Old English poetry, is set in Denmark and Sweden (mostly Götaland) during the first half of the 6th century. It opens with the funeral of a king in a ship laden with treasure, and has other descriptions of hoards including Beowulf's own mound-burial. Its picture of warrior life in the Hall of the Danish Scylding clan, with formal mead-drinking, minstrel recitation to the lyre and the rewarding of valour with gifts, and the description of a helmet, could all be illustrated from the Sutton Hoo finds. The interpretation of each has a bearing on the other.[131]

Beowulf is a work of heroic lore, not a scholarly history. However, the real eastern Swedish connections of the Sutton Hoo material reinforce this link.[132] The Vendel and Valsgärde graves also include ships (though smaller), similar artefact groups, and many sacrificed animals.[133] Ship-burial at this date is largely confined to east Sweden and East Anglia. The rather earlier mound-burials (without ships) at Old Uppsala, in the same region, have a more direct bearing on the Beowulf story and date-horizon. The Sutton Hoo and the Swedish burials are earlier than the famous Gokstad and Oseberg ship-burials.

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« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2007, 04:51:50 pm »



A Swedish shield from Vendel, directly comparable to the Sutton Hoo shield.

The inclusion of drinking-horns, lyre, sword and shield, bronze and glass vessels is not untypical of high-status 6th or early 7th century chamber-graves in England.[134] The selection and arrangement of goods in these graves shows a widespread conformity of household possessions and funeral custom among these wealthy people. The Sutton Hoo ship-burial is a uniquely-elaborated version of the ritual, of exceptional quality, with the addition of the regalia and instruments of power, and with Scandinavian connections more direct than the general overlap between English and north continental art of the period.

 

Vendel era helmet, at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities.

A possible explanation for these Swedish connections lies in the well-attested northern custom by which the children of leading men were often brought up not at home, but by some distinguished friend or relative.[135] In this way, at a royal level, a future East Anglian potentate fostered in Sweden could have acquired very high quality objects of Swedish type, and have made the necessary contacts with those armourers, before returning to Britain to assume his inheritance.

Sam Newton draws together the Sutton Hoo and Beowulf links with the Raedwald identification, and using genealogical data argues that the Wuffing dynasty derived from the Geatish Wulfing house mentioned in Beowulf and the poem Widsith. Possibly the oral materials from which Beowulf was assembled belonged to East Anglian royal tradition, and they and the ship-burial took shape together as heroic restatements of migration-age origins.[136]

Professor Carver argues that pagan East Anglian rulers responded to the encroachment of Roman Christendom by ever more elaborate cremation rituals to express defiance and independence. The execution victims, if not human sacrifices for the ship-burial, perhaps suffered for dissent from the cult of Christian royalty.[137] The executions may coincide in date with the period of Mercian dominion in East Anglia (c 760–825).[138]

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« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2007, 04:52:29 pm »

Art history

Sutton Hoo is a cornerstone of the study of art in Britain in the 6th–9th centuries. Professor Henderson, summarising, calls the ship treasures "the first proven hothouse for the incubation of the Insular style."[139] A full assemblage of objects of very varied origins are combined among the possessions of a person of the highest social degree. The gold and garnet fittings show the creative fusion of foregoing techniques and motifs derived from them, by a master-goldsmith working for such a patron.
From the gathering together of such possessions, and the combination or transformation of their themes and techniques in new productions, the synthesis of Insular art emerges. Drawing on Irish, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon, native British and Mediterranean artistic sources, Insular art is a fusion more complex than the purely Anglo-Irish expressed by "Hiberno-Saxon" art. The 7th century Book of Durrow, first survival of the gospel-book series including the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells, owes as much to Pictish sculpture, to British millefiori and enamelwork and Anglo-Saxon cloisonné metalwork, as to Irish art.[140]

This fusion in the Sutton Hoo treasury and workshop precedes the (often royal) religious context of the scriptoria. There is thus a continuum from pre-Christian royal accumulation of precious objects from diverse cultural sources, through to the art of gospel-books, shrines and liturgical or dynastic objects in which those elements were blended. It is a parallel expression of the formation of English and Insular cultural identity, and the dissemination of royal values. That is part of the fascination of Sutton Hoo.
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« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2007, 04:53:19 pm »

Exhibition

•   The treasure from the ship-burial was presented to the nation by the owner, Edith May Pretty, in a bequest of 1942, and is held and normally displayed at the British Museum in London.
•   The original finds from Mounds 2, 3 and 4, excavated in 1938, are displayed at Ipswich Museum, Suffolk, in an Anglo-Saxon Gallery (opened 1996). There are also on display British Museum replicas or reproductions of the lyre, the whetstone-sceptre, great buckle, sword-belt mounts, silver bowls, spoons and ladle, some sword-belt fittings, the coins, a large drinking-cup, and the large cauldron from the ship-burial. The display includes other objects of related interest from Suffolk.
•   The Sutton Hoo site itself, including Sutton Hoo House (now Tranmer House), was given to the English National Trust by the Trustees of the Annie Tranmer Trust during the 1990s. A visitor centre and exhibition hall were opened in March 2002, at which Seamus Heaney, the guest speaker, read from his translation of Beowulf.[141]
•   The National Trust visitor centre is sited near the Sutton Hoo cemetery and includes much of the Sutton Hoo estate. The Exhibition Hall houses the original finds from the Sutton Hoo equestrian grave (Mound 17), the newly-found hanging bowl and the Bromeswell Bucket. There are several high-quality reproductions and a life-sized recreation of the burial chamber and contents. A temporary exhibition room displays original objects on loan in annual themed exhibitions. Tranmer House is used for day-schools on related themes.
•   Reproductions: a modern reproduction of the sword was made by Patrick Bárta of TEMPL Historic Arms;[142] a re-creation of the lyre was made by Michael J. King.[143]
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