from The Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo
Excavated/Findspot: British Isles: England:
Suffolk: Sutton (parish - Suffolk): Sutton Hoo
A masterpiece of early medieval craftsmanship, made using over 400g of gold with an intricate decoration of intertwining creatures inlaid with niello (a black metal alloy). This type of animal ornament was popular with many Germanic-speaking peoples at the time.
Situated on either side of the boss at the tip of the buckle, two animals grip a smaller creature in their open jaws; on either side of the two, slightly smaller, upper bosses are two birds' heads with curved beaks. Between these is a circular plate which acts as a stop for the tongue of the buckle. This plate is decorated with a complex animal interlace; the tongue protruding from it is ridged and otherwise plain.
The clasp on the cover, not just a symbol of a love with cuthwin, but acts as a lock to open and enter the journey they took, the story within.
The internment of a ship at Sutton Hoo represents the most impressive medieval grave to be discovered in Europe. Inside the burial mound was the imprint of a decayed ship and a central chamber filled with treasures. But who was buried there and what did it reveal about this period in history?
Sue Brunning, Curator of Early Medieval European Collections, says the burial was the final resting place of someone who had died in the early seventh century, during the Anglo-Saxon period – a time before 'England' existed.
She highlights the effort and manpower that would have been necessary to position and bury the ship – it would have involved dragging the ship uphill from the River Deben, digging a large trench, cutting trees to craft the chamber, dressing it with finery and raising the mound.
Ship burials were rare in Anglo-Saxon England – probably reserved for the most important people in society (possibly a King) – so it's likely that there was a huge funeral ceremony. She continues:
'It's this effort, coupled with the quality and the quantity of the grave goods from all over the known world at that time, that has made people think that an Anglo-Saxon king may have been buried here.
'We can't name that king for certain, but a popular candidate is Raedwald, who ruled the kingdom of East Anglia around this time in the early seventh century. He may have held power over neighbouring kingdoms too, which may have earned him a good send off.'
Find out more about the shipwreck and buckle by clicking the image, which was purchased from, and will take you to, The British Museum website where this information was borrowed.