Excavations

1400s – 1600s Records and Robbers

Mound raided by Tudor Treasure Hunters 

Mound raided by Tudor Treasure Hunters

Basil Brown was not the first to uncover the treasures of Sutton Hoo's ancient burial mounds.

The burials mounds at sunset © NTPL/John Millar

The burials mounds at sunset

Treasure hunting Tudors

During the 16th century, under the commission of Elizabeth I, Dr John Dee was sent to find treasures in Suffolk. Although there is no definite evidence of his visit, Mound 1 was raided around this time. The amateur archaeologists decided to drive a vertical shaft into the middle of the mound. The hole began to capsize in on them, fortunately causing the robbers to give up digging inches away from treasures.

Excavations - the unveiling of a King?

You can pay your own respects to Raedwald. high king of East Anglia © Matt Maxwell

You can pay your own respects to Raedwald. high king of East Anglia

The summer of 1938 saw the first in a long series of excavations to be undertaken at Sutton Hoo. Basil Brown initially excavated Mounds 2, 3 and 4 but was greeted only with dismay, the mounds had been robbed in antiquity.

The Burial of a King?

Excavations resumed the next summer in 1939, Basil was determined to unlock the mysteries of Mound 1, the largest mound. It was beneath this mound that one of the richest surviving Anglo Saxon Burial sites was discovered. Basil discovered the ghost remains of a 27m long oak ship with a richly presented burial chamber built within. It is believed that this is the final resting place of one of the 7th Kings of the East Angles – King Raedwald.

Mrs Pretty, as sole owner of the treasures, decided to donate everything to the British Museum. Due to the needs of World War II, artefacts were not looked at until 1945 when Robert Bruce-Mitford, assistant keeper in the British Museum department of British and Medieval antiquities began to clean the excavated items.

Small excavations continued after Basil Brown but it was not until 1983 with the arrival of Martin Carver that new burials were uncovered including a warrior buried with his horse and the gruesome sand bodies of sacrificed victims.
 

Most recent excavations

Hidden Hoo reveals a new chapter at Sutton Hoo

The most recent excavations took place underneath where the visitor centre now stands. Archaeologists discovered a second Saxon cemetery with not only burials but also cremations. The most important burial found was that of a warrior buried with a shield.

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