Using Grave Goods to Make an Argument about a Past King – England

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In 1939, archaeologists in England excavated a burial mound in Sutton Hoo and discovered one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in the country for it’s size, completeness, items of beauty, and contributions to history. The royal grave was dated to the seventh century, a time when England was dominated by the Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic people who had divided the former Roman province of Britannia into a number of petty kingdoms. The site was located in the territory of the kingdom of East Anglia, and the king’s body had been buried in a 90 foot long ship and accompanied by rich grave goods from all over the world.Assignment

Archaeologist have limited sources from this time period and must rely on archaeological evidence and the few primary sources available to analyze the details of the grave. Using the descriptions of the grave goods below, as well as the included literary sources, make an argument for which king is buried in the ship. You will be graded on the completeness of your argument rather than your choice of king.

The East Anglian Kings from this time were: Redwald (599-624/5), Eorpwald (625-627/8), Sigebert (630/1-636/7), and Ecric (634/636/7).

Consider the following in your response: What about the goods found indicate that this was the grave of a king? Was he a pagan or a christian? What conclusions can you draw about Anglo-Saxon values and culture? Which regions are represented by the grave goods and why?

Grave Goods

Helmet: A crested and masked helmet with decorations similar to those found in Swedish cemeteries. It has features that suggest English origin and is modeled on late Roman styles.

Silver Bowls and Spoons: Probably made in Byzantium in the sixth century, the spoons are inscribed in Greek with the names PAULOS and SAULOS, two apostles.. They are possibly a gift from a Christian.

Sword and Shield: Warriors were often buried with their swords, this was made by a master-craftsman and the pommel is covered in gold and garnet. The shield was also richly decorated and similar to Swedish finds.

Bowl and Lyre: A bronze hanging bowl of Mediterranean origin and a six stringed lyre, an instrument commonly found in wealthy Anglo-Saxon graves.

Belt Buckles and Clasps: Intricately carved and made of gold and garnet. The shoulder claps would have been used while wearing armor, the quality and craftsmanship is very high.

Purse lid and coins: The purse lid was made by a master goldsmith and decorated with images from the Swedish style helmet and shield. The purse contained 36 gold coins each originating from a different Frankish mint. The coins appear to have been minted between 610 and 635 by the Merovingian Franks.

Silver Platter: Made in Byzantium and bearing the stamps of Emperor Anastasius I who reigned 491-518.

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