Royal discovery near Sutton Hoo

11 March 2014

Entrance of Sutton Hoo exhibition hall. Photographer: Arne Koehler {{GFDL}}

Archaeologists in Suffolk, advised by Christopher Scull, have found conclusive evidence of the long-lost Anglo-Saxon royal settlement whose people buried their kings at Sutton Hoo.

A team of skilled metal detector users have been working for the last five years on farmland, four miles north-east of the Sutton Hoo burial site, where a diverse range of finds have been discovered. These include fragments of exquisite gold jewellery, Saxon pennies and weights associated with trade, and metal offcuts from a smith’s workshop. The archaeological survey began in 2008 after landowner Sir Michael Bunbury alerted Suffolk County Council to signs of illegal looting taking place.

The National Trust will host a small exhibition of the finds, Rendlesham Rediscovered, in its visitor centre at Sutton Hoo. The finds come in what is already an exciting year for Sutton Hoo, as the National Trust celebrates 75 years since Basil Brown discovered the original Anglo Saxon burial site.

The royal settlement at Rendlesham is mentioned by the Venerable Bede in his 8th century work An Ecclesiastical History of the English People, but was not located until now.

According to Christopher Scull, Honorary Visiting Professor at the Institute, who is the academic advisor to the project:

  • The survey has identified a site of national and indeed international importance for the understanding of the Anglo-Saxon elite and their European connections. The quality of some of the metalwork leaves no doubt that it was made for and used by the highest ranks of society. These exceptional discoveries are truly significant in throwing new light on early East Anglia and the origins of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.”

The survey has revealed human occupation and activity at Rendlesham from late prehistory up to the modern day, with a particularly large, rich and important settlement there during the early to middle Anglo-Saxon period. This means it would have been inhabited during the early 7th century, at the same time that the internationally-famous burial mounds were built at Sutton Hoo.

The National Trust exhibition at Sutton Hoo will run from Saturday 15 March through to October.

The archaeological survey project has been funded and sponsored by Suffolk County Council, the Sutton Hoo Society and English Heritage, with a substantial input of volunteer time. The temporary exhibition display has been funded and is hosted by the National Trust.

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