Sutton Hoo's Treasure

Sutton Hoo helmet photograph

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Sutton Hoo's Treasure - Sutton Hoo's Treasure By HENRY MITCHELL the...
Sutton Hoo's Treasure By HENRY MITCHELL the Washington Post Long before the grave was opened and the king's cold treasure made her eyes blink, the owner of Sutton Hoo had suspected there was something unusual about the 16 mounds on her property. So had plenty of other people, people, including a would-be would-be would-be grave robber a few centuries ago. But until Mrs. E. M. Pretty set her hand to it, nobody succeeded succeeded in finding the treasure or greater than the gold the most exciting archeological find in English history. Since the mound over the treasure was as conspicuous as the Anglo-Saxons Anglo-Saxons Anglo-Saxons of 625 A.D. could make it (it was 100 feet long and nine feet high), no ar-cheologist ar-cheologist ar-cheologist had to follow a rabbit rabbit down a hole to come upon the find. It just took a few days of digging. The digging Is chronicled with simplicity and grace by Bernice Grohskopf in a recently recently published book, 'The Treasure of Sutton Hoo." (Ath-eneum (Ath-eneum (Ath-eneum $6.95). This first full-length full-length full-length book on the subject reveals reveals the dig was conducted largely by amateurs and cost the government less than 100 pounds, yet was done with such care as to be a virtual monument to enlightened amateurs. amateurs. As the book's forewords point out, the largely amateur team had to sink or swim as best it could any carelessness would cost irreparable damage, damage, yet any delay would be ruinous, both because of the fragile nature of the treasure and the growing threat of international international holocaust from World War n. NEAR NORTH SEA Sutton Hoo is a pleasant freehold half a mile from the North Sea on the Suffolk Coast, where the River Deban flows home. An Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon king (scholars (scholars are still arguing which one) was buried there in a ship the ship was lowered, like an 89-foot 89-foot 89-foot coffin, into a sandy grave and the king's body placed in it, along with more than a million dollars' worth of gold jewelry. Or so it is thought. Except that no trace of the king's body has been found; and more than one explanation explanation is offered for that. Returning to Mrs. Pretty and the actual discovery, she arranged, arranged, after a talk with the nearby Ipswich Museum, for a Basil Brown to take a room at Sutton Hoo in 1938. He was given a free hand with the spade. Two of Mrs. Pretty's gardeners, Jacobs and Spooner, were to forget their delphiniums, delphiniums, primulas and other felic-ities felic-ities felic-ities of the Suffolk garden awhile and lend Brown a hand. This they readily did or at Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon Warrior's Helmet, of Iron and Bronze, Was Recreated from Fragments Uncovered at Sutton Hoo least they dug for a year, readily or not, with Brown. Several small mounds were explored explored and minor discoveries made, enough to sustain hope. On May 8, 1939 (the hour is not known), Mrs. Pretty walked out and pointed to the largest mound and said, "What about this one?" BURIAL SHIP FOUND In a matter of a few weeks it was clear that a ship burial of a Saxon king had been found. It turned out to be the earliest ship burial yet discovered in Europe. It revised a good bit of thinking about the Saxon monarchy monarchy nobody had supposed an English chieftain of those days had so much wealth, or -that -that society was well enough organized for an 89-foot 89-foot 89-foot ship to be lowered (not slid) into a grave, or that the Saxons had silver from Byzantium and Italy, antique armor from Sweden, Sweden, gold from France, bronze from Africa. The French have always hinted that from the fall of Rome (450 A.D.) until the Norman incursion of 1066, all England was dark. It is now suspected there were as many glimmerings in England as in France. Sutton Hoo also sheds some light on the author of "Beowulf," "Beowulf," as much as he sheds light on this Saxon find. When that writer spoke of gold and great feats and so on, it was generally assumed these were fantasies, perhaps disordered, of the first and therefore least experienced poet of the English English language. But the golden horns of Sutton Hoo, the thousands thousands of garnets, the flamboyant flamboyant skill of the goldsmiths it is now known he reported as much as he invented, and that he had rather a good eye for the princely furniture of the time. 118-WORD 118-WORD 118-WORD STORY The first report of the discovered discovered treasure appeared in July 1939, in The Times. Never a publication to sound the trumpets hastily, The Times (of London) recorded the discovery discovery in 118 words on the amusement page beneath an article on George Bernard Shaw, the Irishman, who was as usual having another birthday. birthday. In normal times, the discovery discovery of Sutton Hoo would have been a sensation throughout the civilized world. As well as A In England. But the summer of 1939 . . . Within a few weeks the men who dug at Sutton Hoo were in military service. Hardly had the treasure been uncovered when it was buried again, in a disused subway tunnel in London. London. The English were more interested interested in trying to survive a German onslaught than In studying the spectacular grave of a Germanic ancestor. After the war, the British museum had more urgent problems than devoting all its resources to studying the Sutton Hoo finds, so the work of scholarship, scholarship, the work of evaluation and cataloging, proceeded slowly and quietly. 'BEOWULF FITS SITE There are quotations from "Beowulf" that fit the Sutton Hoo burial almost uncannily. The great Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon poem was written within a few decades decades following 625. The diggers at Sutton Hoo, yhen they uncovered the treasure, treasure, probably could have done no better than follow "Beowulf" "Beowulf" when they first saw the gold, enamels, and jewels: "Jewels and silver buried in the sandy ground, back in the earth again, forever hidden and useless to men." DECORATED SHIP As they lifted out the numerous numerous drinking horns (two of them made from the horns of the now-extinct now-extinct now-extinct aurochs, each holding six quarts and not meant to be set down until empty) they recalled, or would have if they remembered "Beowulf" from their school days: "The keeper of the mead came out carrying the carved flasks and coured that bright mateurs Unearthed Most Exciting Find in English History; 'Beowulf's Author9 Vindicated, Too sweetness." The drinking horns are bound, at Sutton Hoo, with wrought gold. The ship itself, that serves as a coffin, was designed for 38 oarsmen and a steersman. To modern eyes, used to today's ugly boats if one may say so without too much flak from boaters it is very beautiful with its beaked prow and stern. In such boats, it is now clear, the Anglos and Saxons sailed the North Sea to come at last to England. "Then they sailed, set their ship out on the waves under the cliffs, ready for what came." And, according to the poet, "rejoicing, they quietly ended their voyage." At Sutton Hoo they found a sword, ornamented with gold and jewels, a family antique, apparently, of Swedish manufacture. manufacture. "No one who'd worn it into battle, swung it in dangerous places, had ever been deserted." deserted." They found also an antique antique helmet, evidently handed down from the past and quite old, even in 625 A.D.; "His helmet would defend him, that ancient shining treasure, treasure, encircled with hard-rolled hard-rolled hard-rolled metal, set there by some Smith's long-dead long-dead long-dead hand, would block all battle swords and stop all blades from cutting at him. poet knew rr, TOO The helmet was not "shining" "shining" when they found it at Sutton Sutton Hoo, but the author of "Beowulf' knew about that, too: "Gems scattered on the floor, cups and bracelets, rusty old helmets, beautifully made but rotting with no hands to rub and polish them." There were 10 silver bowls or basins found, one of them 28 inches in diameter. Some came from Byzantium. Silver spoons, perhaps from Italy, were engraved "Saul" and "Paul," possibly for a convert to the Christian faith. The time of Sutton Hoo was, like today, a transitional time, when nothing much was settled, settled, least of all faith. Some think the Prince of Sutton Hoo was buried in church ground, and that the pagan ship burial, perhaps the last in England, was done as a gesture to the large number of pagans in the island. Others question whether it was ever the custom' to bury more than a million dollars worth of precious metal and family heirlooms apart from a hero's body or a father's or a son's. Scholars, who are from time to time confounded by a poet's accuracy (which they grudgingly confess a thousand mil OPEL Here Now! Central Michigan's Largest Opel Dealer! LORENZ BUICK-OPEL BUICK-OPEL BUICK-OPEL KALAMAZOO at or two thousand years late, as a rule) are still thinking it over. The damp sand of the Suffolk grave, which preserved t h e. gold and blue enamels set in gold, and the 14-ounce 14-ounce 14-ounce gold buckle and the garnets, thousands thousands of them, cut to fit in gold borders like campleve enamel, and which spared the silver from the east and from Italy, and Coptic bronze from Africa, did not spare the oak planks of the ship. They rotted entirely, through the sand pressing against- against- them made so precise a mold that a good cast was able to be made. As for the Prince's body, of which there is no trace, perhaps perhaps it did not resist even as well as oak. In any case, all that's left is the treasure that Mrs. Pretty gave to the British Museum. RIVER ST. ome Folks See Hie in November! tiii: si aii: joi itwi, Lansing East tenting, Michigan G-8 G-8 G-8 Sun., Nov. 22, 1970 Shp had title to all discovered discovered objects, and if she had wished, she might have sold them. Evidently she did not wish to do so. The first ptet in England sxike of just such goods as were dug up at Sutton Hoo; and perhaps of the improbable improbable (and excellent) team of Pretty, Basil Brown, Jacobs, Jacobs, Ipswich and Spooner as well: "The Prince and his people will remember those treasures, will remember their fathers once wore them ; fell with those helmets on their heads, those swords in their hands." PH. 372-57S0 372-57S0 372-57S0 PR

Clipped from Lansing State Journal22 Nov 1970, SunPage 84

Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Michigan)22 Nov 1970, SunPage 84
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  • Sutton Hoo's Treasure — Sutton Hoo helmet photograph

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