Sutton Hoo: Unmasking A Kingdom Essay

1275 words - 5 pages

The Dark Ages, the time period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, has garnered a reputation for brutality, barbarism, low quality of life, and constant fighting between warlords and tribes. This was the age of heroes and legends, of kings and kingdoms unknown. Little is known about the Dark Ages as the name suggests, but as recent generations of historians have found, The Dark Ages were not as dark as once supposed.
In 1939, a ship burial site was unearthed which shook the historical foundations of Britain. Sutton Hoo, located in the south-east region of Britain, was the epicenter of a major discovery which housed the earliest and richest medieval burial in Britain and perhaps the whole of Europe1. The largest of the burial sites which housed the ship and all its artifacts, was believed to be the burial site for an ancient Saxon king named King Raedwald, ruler of the East-Angles. The artifacts found in his burial chamber were dated to around early 7th Century. The amount of gold and silver buried at Sutton Hoo suggests that that kingship was wealthier than most people think. Having buried that much gold and silver means that they had yet to deplete their riches and they still had much more left. The belt buckle artifact was made of gold equivalent to the price of a noble man. Having that much value on your belt buckle alone suggests wealth and power beyond what historians thought at that time.
Within the Sutton Hoo burial site were artifacts that originated from distant locations, showing the far-reaching network of which the supposed king was a part. G. Baldwin Brown wrote “the Germanic art of the Migration Period…may have been affected by classical, Oriental and Celtic traditions before it took a form and substance of its own.” 2 One such artifact, among the many found at the burial site, was the famed Sutton Hoo Helmet. The helmet is one of the most treasured artifacts in the British culture and many consider it the “Page 1” of British history as it gave historians a major insight into the influences and culture that shaped Britain as we know it today. This helmet is only one of four other Anglo-Saxon helmets that have been discovered to this day3.
When found, the helmet consisted of nothing more than hundreds of corroded pieces of iron. The first of the reconstructions of the helmet, by conservator Hebert Margon, took over six months to complete but it did not satisfy Bruce-Mitford because the neck and part of the face were left exposed. In 1970, the helmet was dismantled and reassembled into something more suitable for a king and less exposed.4
Originally covered with bronze and tin plates, the helmet has been found to be similar in design to those found in Sweden of that same time period. Vendel and Valsgarde are the sites of large burial mounds in Sweden containing artifacts similar in design to those of Sutton Hoo. In comparison with Swedish helmets of the same period, some of the pieces of the Sutton Hoo...

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