As we arrived at the site of a 1300 year old ship burial of an AngloSaxon King, the children, predictably, just wanted to hit the playground.
So, before dragging them off to see the burial mounds and artifacts, we did that.
Afterwards we walked to the site which encompassed 19 or 20 burial mounds dating from the 7th century, including that of an Anglo-Saxon king. While we stood and looked over this monumental field, which is a key site for understanding Anglo-Saxon traditions and in addition contains evidence of 6,000 years of human habitation, one of the children was repeatedly and very loudly complaining about wanting to go. We got to contemplate this vast span of history for about 30 seconds and then we were off again.
The visitor centre was more enjoyed by all. It was nicely set up with a timeline of the site set round a large room and a display of the reproductions of the finds that were discovered there (the original finds are in the British Museum). The craftsmanship displayed was really quite astonishing, especially considering the limited tools that would have been available. The most famous find was a fabulous and rather frightening helmet, but the metalworking displayed in other objects was also incredible. There was a replica of the 90 foot long ship in which the warrior/king was buried and assumed possible set up of the grave goods buried with him. There had likely been another ship burial close by which had unfortunately been completely destroyed by grave robbers.
At Sutton Hoo they seemed pretty certain that the person buried in the ship was King Raedwald of East Anglia. The British Museum seems to be hedging its bets rather more, though they consider Raedwald to be a strong candidate. It was an interesting time in terms of the intersection of Christianity and Paganism. Raedwald had converted to Christianity but his wife had not. In Raedwald’s temple there were both Christian altars and pagan shrines apparently, and both Christian and pagan elements were indicated in grave goods in the burial ship.
From the British museum: “Many of these possessions, even to the modern eye, are extraordinary and they allow us a glimpse into a life that relied on simple technology but was still sumptuous and sophisticated – a lifestyle that is described in the poem Beowulf, which, although written down a couple of centuries after the burial, vividly brings to life this earlier heroic period.”
I need to go and read Beowulf now….