The Royal Burial Ground at Sutton Hoo
Whether you're planning a visit to Sutton Hoo or exploring from the comfort of your own home, 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 Horseman'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.
Viewing the Royal Burial Ground from above
Until recently, it has been hard to get an appreciation of just how close the Royal Burial Ground is to the River Deben. During the Anglo-Saxon period, the Royal Burial Ground would have sat surrounded by a vast expanse of open heathland, with views stretching down towards the river. You can now get a whole new perspective of the Royal Burial Ground by exploring our 17-metre tall viewing tower. The recently completed tower is the final piece of the puzzle of the capital works which formed part of our £4million National Lottery Heritage Funded project, Releasing the Sutton Hoo Story.
The tower is approached via a ramp and the first level is accessible offering a commanding view across the Royal Burial Ground. Interpretation panels give a clear map of which mound is which and when they were excavated. As you ascend the tower, the views open up even further. The penultimate level offers an incredible vista of the Royal Burial Ground and the landscape beyond, whilst a platform projecting towards the rear of the tower gives you a sense of scale as you look down on the surrounding tree canopy and across the river towards other local landmarks.
The tower is open from 10am – 4pm daily.
Did you know...?
• The Royal Burial Ground is a Scheduled Monument
• 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 nation and they can still be seen and enjoyed today at the British Museum.
If you would prefer to view the short guide online you can download a web view version by clicking here.