Sutton Hoo at last

Travels with me aren't

On the cover of my school history textbook was a photograph of a jewelled purse lid of gold and garnets – one of the treasures of the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial. Later, studying history at university in London, I spent many afternoons in the British Museum, staring at all the objects from Sutton Hoo, marvelling that such intricately decorated objects such as the shoulder clasps, belt buckle and helmet were produced during the period known as the ‘Dark Ages.’ The helmet, with its garnet-encrusted eyebrows, held a particular fascination.

Image of purse lid

I had watched In Search of the Dark Ages and knew that the Great Ship Burial, excavated on the eve of the Second World War was possibly that of King Raedwald of the East Angles, a powerful 7th-century king, mentioned in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Church and People, who hedged his bets by adopting Christianity without abandoning his pagan…

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