Sutton Hoo, at Sutton near Woodbridge, Suffolk, is the site of two 6th- and early 7th-century cemeteries. One cemetery contained an undisturbed ship-burial, including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, most of which are now in the British Museum in London. The site is in the care of the National Trust.
Sutton Hoo is of primary importance to early medieval historians because it sheds light on a period of English history that is on the margin between myth, legend, and historical documentation. Use of the site culminated at a time when Rædwald, the ruler of the East Angles, held senior power among the English people and played a dynamic if ambiguous part in the establishment of Christian rulership in England; it is generally thought most likely that he is the person buried in the ship. The site has been vital in understanding the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia and the whole early Anglo-Saxon period.
The ship-burial, probably dating from the early 7th century and excavated in 1939, is one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England for its size, completeness, far-reaching connections, the quality and beauty of its contents, and the profound interest of the burial ritual itself. The initial excavation was privately sponsored by the landowner. When the significance of the find became apparent, national experts took over. Subsequent archaeological campaigns, particularly in the late 1960s and late 1980s, have explored the wider site and many other individual burials. The most significant artefacts from the ship-burial, displayed in the British Museum, are those found in the burial chamber, including a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield and sword, a lyre, and many pieces of silver plate from the Byzantine Empire. The ship-burial has, from the time of its discovery, prompted comparisons with the world described in the heroic Old English poem Beowulf, which is set in southern Sweden. It is in that region, especially at Vendel, that close archaeological parallels to the ship-burial are found, both in its general form and in details of the military equipment contained in the burial.
The only two other such UK ship burials are at Snape (nearby in Suffolk) , and at Balladoole in the Isle of Man.
You can see the
administrative areas in which Sutton has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.