Burial Mounds of Kings
There are around eighteen burial mounds within the royal cemetery. 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 cemetry 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 - Mound One and Mound Seventeen.
The Great Ship Burial
Sutton Hoo is England's Valley of the Kings, and the Anglo-Saxon ship burial found in Mound One 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 Raedwald, 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 90ft Anglo-Saxon boat from Sutton Hoo no longer exists. It was made of oak and after 1,400 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 Mound One 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.
The Prince and His Horse
Underneath Mound Seventeen 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.
Be sure to see the genuine finds from this evocative burial in the Exhibition Hall, including some beautiful gold harness decorations.
The Other Ship Burial
There are three Anglo-Saxon ship burials known to archaeology in the UK - one up the road at a place called Snape, and two at Sutton Hoo. The lesser known ship burial took place in Mound Two.
When you visit Sutton Hoo you'll notice one mound that's taller than the rest. This is Mound Two and it was reconstructed to its original height back in 1992 as an experiment to see how fast a mound would erode.
As you walk around the perimeter, try to imagine all these barrows as high as this one. They must have looked very imposing to the Anglo-Saxons down on the River Deben all those years ago.
Walking in the footsteps of Kings
We run regular guided tours of the burial mounds, giving you an in depth understanding of the extraordinary history beneath your feet. Speak to our Visitor Reception team on the day to book a place on the tour. These are run in collaboration with the Sutton Hoo Society.
Did you know...?
- The mounds are scheduled ancient monuments
- Grave robbers tried to rob Mound One, but missed the treasure by just a few feet
- Edith's son, Robert, left his roller-skates in Mound Two back in 1939
What would you have done?
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 British Museum. Would you have done the same?
Basil, a self-taught archaeologist, made what he described as 'the find of a lifetime' in 1939. We owe a great debt to this quiet man who painstakingly uncovered the largest Anglo-Saxon boat found in the UK so far.