Archaeology Live at Sutton Hoo

Visual of proposed viewing tower at Sutton Hoo

This May half-term, as the first step towards our major work to transform your experience of Sutton Hoo, something very special is going to be happening. The first archaeological dig within the Sutton Hoo Scheduled Monument in nearly 30 years will be taking place to excavate the footprint of our new viewing tower.

Taking place between Tuesday 29 May and Saturday 2 June, we will be carrying out a one-off archaeological dig within the Scheduled Monument at Sutton Hoo, right next to the Anglo-Saxon Royal Burial Ground.

This is to prepare the way ready for one of the exciting changes that will be happening at Sutton Hoo after we temporarily close on 30 September – the construction of a viewing tower nestled in the trees of Top Hat Wood which will overlook the Royal Burial Ground.

The dig will be the first step amongst the many things we have planned on the site as part of our project, ‘Releasing the Sutton Hoo Story’.

Archaeological contractors, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have been appointed especially for this work and will be bringing their specialised experience and expertise with them for the dig. Amongst many other projects, MOLA excavated the Prittlewell Prince, a high status seventh century Anglo-Saxon grave in Essex discovered in 2003, where comparisons have been drawn between the burial there and particularly the Mound One burial at Sutton Hoo.

MOLA will be joined by a team of Sutton Hoo volunteers and staff to help with the excavation, who will be available to chat to and answer any of your questions.

You can also come along to one of our trench-side talks which will be taking place right by the dig at 11.45am and 1.45pm for each day of the event.

This work is a vital stage that needs to take place before we can start constructing the viewing tower that will give visitors a birds-eye view of the Royal Burial Ground.

Getting to work

The first step to remove the top soil will be led by our Ranger, Jonathan and a team of Landscape Conservation Volunteers on the Tuesday, clearing the land ready for the excavation team to arrive and get to work from Wednesday onwards.

From Wednesday, the team led by MOLA will be getting down to the detail to get everything completed on time and to the highest archaeological standards.

Come along to watch the archaeological process as it happens, from excavating and removing the topsoil and subsoil deposits, the thorough hand sieving that will catch the smallest of objects, and the processing and recording of any finds discovered.

Volunteers from Sutton Hoo will be on hand to talk to you about their involvement with the dig, archaeological methods and any finds of the dig to date.

Visual of proposed viewing tower at Sutton Hoo
Visual of proposed viewing tower at Sutton Hoo
Visual of proposed viewing tower at Sutton Hoo

Once completed, the tower will measure just under 20m in total height, although as it will be sitting in a small dip within the woodland, it will appear shorter. Hidden in amongst the tree tops, it will provide a fantastic view out over the entire Royal Burial Grounds and the surrounding landscape.

When we first began developing our plans a few years ago, we constructed a test tower overlooking the Royal Burial Ground and found that this new elevated view gave visitors a better appreciation and understanding of the Royal Burial Grounds as a whole, the burial mounds and other marks left by both people and nature and how this all fits into the wider surrounding landscape.

Inspired by what you have seen at Sutton Hoo? We will have plenty of opportunities for you to get involved later in summer with our Archaeological Festival!

Geophysic survey at Sutton Hoo

Archaeological Festival - Field Walking and Geophysics

Take part and learn all about field walking and geophysics at Sutton Hoo in July! Part of our Archaeological Festival.