The Royal Burial Ground at Sutton Hoo

View of the burial mounds at dawn at Sutton Hoo

Explore the Royal Burial Ground from the comfort of your home and learn about the discovery of this special landscape and the impact it has had on our understanding of our ancestors.

 

Burial Mounds of Kings

There are around eighteen burial mounds within the Royal Burial Ground. Many have been so eroded over the centuries that it is hard to know exactly how many there were. 

The burials date to the seventh-century AD. The people buried here left no written records, so it is impossible to know exactly who they were, but historians strongly suspect that Sutton Hoo was the cemetery for the royal dynasty of East Anglia, the Wuffingas, who claimed descent from the god Woden. 

Most of the mounds were robbed, largely in the Tudor period, and much of what was there was lost, but two mounds escaped this fate - the Great Ship Burial or King's Mound One and the Horseman's Mound. 

The Great Ship Burial 

Sutton Hoo is England's Valley of the Kings, and the Anglo-Saxon ship burial found in the King's Mound is the richest burial ever found in northern Europe.

1,400 years ago, a king or great warrior of East Anglia was laid to rest in a 90ft ship, surrounded by his extraordinary treasures. The discovery revolutionised our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon period and provided a lens through which to examine this fascinating era of history. 

The most likely candidate for the man who belonged to this grave is King Rædwald, a great King of East Anglia who won both renown, for his victory over the Kingdom of Northumbria, and criticism, for establishing an altar for Christ and an altar for the old gods side by side.  

What, No Boat?

The 27 metre long Anglo-Saxon ship from Sutton Hoo no longer exists. It was made of oak and after 1,300 years in the acidic soil, it rotted away leaving only its 'ghost' imprinted in the sand.

Although all physical trace has gone, perhaps the ship has sailed on into the next world, bearing its captain on new adventures. 

Where's the Treasure?

The King's Mound treasure is displayed in Room 41: Sutton Hoo and Europe, AD 300-1100 at The British Museum, London, where it can be seen in the context of the seismic changes taking place across Europe in the Early Medieval period.

Please check with the British Museum to find out when they're open for a visit.

The Prince and His Horse

Underneath the Hourseman's Mound lay a double burial: a young warrior and his horse. The warrior must have been greatly loved, as he was buried with his weapons as well as everyday items such as his comb. Perhaps his mother worried he wouldn't keep tidy in the afterlife without it.

The Other Ship Burial 

There are three Anglo-Saxon ship burials known to archaeology in England - one up the road at a place called Snape, and two at Sutton Hoo. The lesser known ship burial took place in Mound Two. 

Mound Two was reconstructed to its original height back in 1992 as an experiment to see how fast a mound would erode.

Did you know...?

•    The Royal Burial Ground is a Scheduled Ancient Monuments area

•    Grave robbers tried to rob the King's Mound, but missed the treasure by just a couple of metres

•    Edith's son, Robert, left his roller-skates in the other ship burial back in 1938

•    As the landowner at the time of the discovery, Edith Pretty was declared the owner of the priceless Anglo-Saxon treasures. She gave them all to the all to the nation and they can still be seen and enjoyed today at the British Museum.