A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The Ongoing Saga of Sutton Hoo
A region long known as a burial place for Anglo-Saxon kings is now yielding a new look at the world they lived in
The small English village of Rendlesham, Suffolk, sits just four miles upriver to the northeast of the famed Anglo-Saxon royal burial site of Sutton Hoo. Portions of the modern village and its fields had long attracted the notice of archaeologists, and had been investigated during the nineteenth century, in the 1940s, and as recently as 1982. Evidence from these studies, though relatively scant, established that it had been an Anglo-Saxon settlement, but not necessarily with a royal connection. Then, in 2008, a Rendlesham landowner notified authorities that “nighthawks”—metal detectorists who raid archaeological sites in darkness, searching out illicit treasure—had been scouring his fields.
The renewed attention brought by the looters enabled the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, working with the landowner and volunteer metal detectorists, to conduct a survey, led by archaeologist Jude Plouviez, to evaluate damage and reassess the site’s archaeological potential. Now, some six years later, the investigation is ongoing, and the fields of Rendlesham are helping to fill in our knowledge of the kingdom that the Anglo-Saxon royals of Sutton Hoo once presided over. While the magnificent burials, which date from the sixth and seventh centuries, bring to mind romantic images of warriors such as Beowulf, recent archaeological fieldwork is providing scholars with a new and fuller view of Anglo-Saxon life.
Sutton Hoo is located in eastern England in an area known as East Anglia. The name derives from the people known as the Angles, a Germanic tribe that began invading and settling in Britain around the fifth century. The East Angles were among the largest and most powerful of the Anglo-Saxon tribes, ruling from centers located along the coast and river valleys in present-day East Anglia. It was there, on a small rise above the River Deben, at Sutton Hoo, that the rulers and royal families of the East Angles were laid to rest.
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