Sutton Hoo Dig Begins
For many visitors to the British Museum , even 70 years and more after the find was made, the exhibit they wish to see above all others is the Sutton Hoo Treasure.
The treasure was discovered in a burial mound near Woodbridge in Suffolk. The owner of the land on which it stood, Mrs Pretty, had been intrigued by local tales of hidden gold; and a nephew of hers had dowsed the mound and was firm in his belief that it concealed that precious metal. The previous year Basil Brown, an archaeologist Mrs Pretty took on to conduct the dig, had explored another area of the site with some small finds made. On May 1 1939 he and two of Mrs Pretty’s servants started on mound 1 there. It appears this mound had avoided being robbed because of alterations to its shape. Quickly the party began to find iron rivets indicating a ship burial; by the end of the month they came to the central burial chamber – which had not been disturbed since its creation in the 7th century.
It is thought the burial was of the Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald of East Anglia, who reigned in the first quarter of the 7th century. His helmet is the most famous and arguably most beautiful of the magnificent artefacts discovered at Sutton Hoo . But others are equally intriguing: silver from Byzantium and possibly other Mediterranean sources; a game; gold and garnet clasps; a shield of Swedish design.
Charles Philips, an academic archaeologist from Cambridge University, took over the dig when its national and even global significance had become apparent. The courts later found that as the goods buried were not intended for recovery they legally belonged to Mrs Pretty: she with laudable generosity gave them to the nation.
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