• Found on the brink of war

    In 1939, with World War II about to begin, archaeologists in Britain were excited by a discovery from 1,300 years ago.

    Inside a grassy mound at Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk, they unearthed the remains of an Anglo-Saxon ship, possibly the tomb of a 7th-century nobelman.

    The wooden ship had rotted away, but its outline, and some of the treasures buried with it remained. Among the gold, silver and iron was a sword, a shield and this warrior's helmet, probably the most famous of all Anglo-Saxon museum treasures.

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  • A rare find

    Made of iron, with decorated panels of bronze covered with tin, the Sutton Hoo helmet is a very rare find.

    Only three other helmets of this age have been found in England.

    It was made with great skill for a great man. Who was he? Probably a nobleman of the Angles, the Germanic people who settled in eastern England after the end of Roman rule in Britain.

    No body was found in the ship-grave, but there are clues which tell us when it was buried.

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  • Rebuilt

    The helmet was badly damaged, crushed when the wooden burial chamber collapsed with age and the weight of soil above.

    Experts put together the fragments, to rebuild it, and also make a modern replica. How impressive it looks, with its face-mask with eye sockets, eyebrows and nose.

    Each eyebrow ends in a boar's head, and between the eyebrows is a dragon-head.

    Nose, eyebrows and dragon together make the shape of a bird with spreading wings.

    Panels on the helmet are decorated with battle scenes and animals. One scene shows a man on a horse fighting a fallen enemy, another shows two warriors with swords and spears.

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  • Ship-burial

    The burial ship was a wooden rowing boat, about 24 metres long, and probably old when it was buried (there are signs that it had been repaired).

    Ship-burials are known from Sweden, and the helmet art looks Swedish too. So it's possible the East Anglian nobles had Swedish ancestors and family ties.

    The gold coins came from the kingdom of the Franks (in continental Europe) , so it's clear that people during this early period of England's history travelled far and wide, from Scandinavia to the lands of the old Roman Empire.

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Fun Facts
  • The burial mounds at Sutton Hoo were said by local people in Suffolk to be haunted!

  • The Sutton Hoo helmet is similar to helmets found in graves in Sweden.

  • The helmet was crushed when the wooden roof of the burial chamber collapsed and sand fell in.

  • A modern replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet was made by armourers at the Tower of London.

  • The Sutton Hoo king was buried with five thrusting spears and three throwing spears (with hooked ends). There was also a long-handled 'axe-hammer' - to give an enemy a very sore head!

  • The king's armour had rusted solid. Experts think it was knee-length and made of chainmail (small iron links).

  • The king's sword was buried in a wooden scabbard (casing), lined with oily wool to keep the metal blade bright and non-rusty.

  • The sword was made from bundles of iron rods hammered together. It had a cutting edge of steel.

  • The helmet may have had a leather lining, possibly with soft padding such as wool.

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