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BEFORE World War Two erupted, a small-time archaeologist was hired by a local woman to excavate her land in England.
Sutton Hoo was assumed to hide Viking remnants – so they were astonished to uncover priceless treasures including an Anglo-Saxon helmet, gold belt buckle, sword and shield.
Sutton Hoo helmet. Early 7th century AD, England, made of Bronze, Silver wire and garnetCredit: Getty – Contributor
The helmet was found inside this mould of a burial ship, hidden for hundreds of years at Sutton LooCredit: Rex Features
When was Sutton Hoo discovered?
In the late 1930s, Edith Pretty, a landowner at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, asked archaeologist Basil Brown to investigate the largest of several Anglo-Saxon burial mounds on her property.
Inside, he made one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of all time.
“Archaeologists painstakingly brushed away layers of sandy soil to reveal the shape of a ship beneath a mound.
“And in the centre of the ship they found a burial chamber full of the most extraordinary treasures,” writes the National Trust.
Dating to the early AD 600s, “this outstanding burial clearly commemorated a leading figure of East Anglia,” says the British Museum.
Reconstruction drawing of the Sutton Hoo ship burial in 620 or 630Credit: Getty – Contributor
What was found at Sutton Hoo?
Inside the burial mound was the imprint of a decayed ship and a central chamber filled with treasures.
At its heart was a burial chamber, the deceased’s final resting place.
It was surrounded by eye-popping riches – gold dress accessories set with Sri Lankan garnets, silver vessels from the distant ancient Greek city of Byzantium, and fine feasting equipment.
There were also deluxe hanging bowls, luxurious woven textiles, and a stag-topped whetstone carved with human faces.
A gold buckle, weighing more than 400 grams, suggested that the person buried was of huge importance.
Among the ancient treasure was this gold buckleCredit: British museum
Whetstone, from Sutton Hoo, early 600s. It may have been a symbol of authorityCredit: british museum
Gold T-shaped strap-distributor, early Anglo-SaxonCredit: Copyright The British Museum / Trustees of the British Museum
Where are the treasures kept?
The King’s Mound treasure is displayed in Room 41: Sutton Hoo and Europe, AD 300-1100 at The British Museum, London.
Edith Pretty donated the important discovery to the famous London-based museum in London.
To keep the priceless treasures safe during the Second World War, they were stored underground in the capital’s rail tunnels.
There were a total of 263 finds from this ancient Saxon burial site.
Most iconic among the treasures is the Sutton Hoo helmet.
Tranmer House – the former home of Edith Pretty who organised the archaeological excavation at the Sutton Hoo, Anglo Saxon siteCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Sutton Hoo purse lidCredit: British Museum
Found highly corroded and broken into more than 100 pieces fragments after the burial chamber collapsed, the helmet took many years work by the British Museum conservation team to reconstruct.
There are two Sutton Hoo helmets in Room 41 – the original and a replica showing how the original previously looked.
The original helmet is extremely rare, only one of four known complete helmets from Anglo-Saxon England.
Unfortunately, the 27 metre long Anglo-Saxon ship from Sutton Hoo no longer exists, says the National Trust.
It was made of oak and after 1,300 years in the acidic soil, it rotted away leaving only its ‘ghost’ imprinted in the sand.
A woman views the Sutton Hoo helmet in the British Museum, LondonCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Where is Sutton Hoo?
Sutton Hoo is located on a 255-acre estate, with views over the River Deben, in Suffolk, .
Once home to Anglo-Saxon warrior kings, the location is where East Anglia’s aristocracy buried their dead in great mounds during the sixth and seventh centuries.
The burial mounds are near the coast in Suffolk
The ancient site near Woodbridge lay within the kingdom of East Anglia – today the region known as Suffolk and Norfolk.
The site of Sutton Hoo – now run by the National Trust – was named after the nearby parish of Sutton, while ‘hoo’ comes from Old English word ‘hoh’, meaning a hill shaped like a heel spur.
The area has undergone a £4million revamp for visitors, with nearly half that amount from a lottery grant.
A new 56ft-high observation tower offers views across the site.