With the release of the Netflix film ‘The Dig’ later this month, we are reminded just how much our understanding has evolved since Basil Brown’s excavations in 1939 led to the discovery of Sutton Hoo.
We now know that the landscape around Sutton Hoo was an open one, with the mounds standing uninterrupted for more than seven kilometres to the East. The primary mound containing the lavish boat burial, itself 27 metres long and large enough for 40 oarsmen, 20 on each side, required the removal of between 17,000-20,000 cubic feet of soil.
The richly symbolic funerary artefacts discovered on Edith Pritty’s land shone a powerful light on a period in our history that, at the time, was commonly referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’.
Case in point being the purse lid; a leather pouch, containing 37 coins discovered in Mound 1 measured only 19 cm long and 18.3 cm wide and a mere 4 mm. Yet despite these slight dimensions, the lid was covered with exquisite metal working and figurative plaques made from 1,526 hand cut garnets.
You can read about this objects cosmic symbolism in A Ritual Landscape Considered, for “…the study of material culture in relation to the landscape not only provides insight into the socio-economic use of space, but also into its mythical dimension; the scared manifests itself at specific prominent locations, where supernatural powers are nearer to the people than elsewhere… Thus the study of sacred places and their material culture provides us insight into the mythical ordering of the integral landscape in the past.” Roymans, N. (1995)
Andrew Collins, Best selling author and researcher on ‘A Ritual Landscape Considered’: “The authors have created a comprehensive and highly important study concerning the celestial astronomy and cosmological backgrounds behind the funerary practices of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons, particularly those who came to settle in Eastern Britain from the fifth century onwards. Yet it is far more than this, for they demonstrate the roots and origins of humanity’s rigid adherence not only of the movements of the sun and moon, but also of the stars, constellations and Milky Way. All of these themes come together in the design, layout and orientation of ancient ceremonial and ritual centers built across Europe prior to the emergence of Roman Christianity. A must read for any student of ancient astronomies, including those, like me, with a keen interest in the constellation of Cygnus, the celestial swan, which has a major role in this ancient saga.”