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Royal settlement linked to Sutton Hoo treasures

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Christa Jenneman
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« on: March 16, 2014, 08:56:48 pm »

Royal settlement linked to Sutton Hoo treasures
Finds from Rendlesham in Suffolk will go on display for the first time this week at the National Trust's Sutton Hoo visitor centre

    Maev Kennedy   
    The Guardian, Monday 10 March 2014 19.17 EDT   

Royal settlement linked to Sutton Hoo treasures
The burial mound at Sutton Hoo, one of Britain's most important archaeological sites, where Anglo-saxon treasures were found. Photograph: Garry Weaser/The Guardian

The home of the Anglo-Saxons who built the world famous burial mounds at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, where a king was laid with golden treasure heaped around him, has been discovered on nearby farmland a few miles from the site.

The finds from Rendlesham, which will go on display for the first time this week at the National Trust's Sutton Hoo visitor centre, include fragments of exquisite gold jewellery comparable in workmanship, if not in scale, to the Sutton Hoo treasures, pieces of gilt bronze horse harness, Saxon pennies and metal offcuts from a blacksmith's workshop.

The 50-hectare (123.5-acre) site, four miles north-east of Sutton Hoo, was discovered by archaeologists after a local landowner, Sir Michael Bunbury, became concerned about nighthawks treasure-hunting thieves who use metal detectors. The archaeology unit of Suffolk county council has for five years been surveying his fields, using aerial photography, soil analysis, ground-penetrating radar and metal detecting, eventually pin pointing the 50 hectare Anglo Saxon site within 160 hectares of farmland.

The Venerable Bede, in his eighth-century history, wrote of a royal settlement but its location was unknown until now.

Professor Christopher Scull, of Cardiff and London universities, said the site was of international importance for understanding the Anglo-Saxon elite and their European trading connections. "The quality of some of the metalwork leaves no doubt that it was made for and used by the highest ranks of society."

The Sutton Hoo discovery was one of the greatest of the 20th century. The low mounds on a ridge overlooking the river Deben were well known, but archaeologists believed grave robbers had emptied them centuries ago, until an eccentric landowner, Edith Pretty, insisted that she had seen ghostly figures walking on them.

In 1939 a local archaeologist, Basil Brown, working with her gardener and gamekeeper, began to uncover the outline of a huge ship, the timbers rotted away but its shape perfectly preserved in the sandy soil. It was full of treasure, including solid gold buckles, jewelled and enamelled shoulder and belt clasps, and luxury imports from Rome, Byzantium and North Africa. One of its remaining mysteries where the people who created the site lived has now been solved.
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