A rare, possibly pre-Christian temple from the time of the East Anglian Kings has been uncovered in Rendlesham, it has emerged.

The discovery was made this summer by Suffolk County Council’s Rendlesham Revealed community archaeology project, which is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Last year the project uncovered the remains of a large timber Royal Hall, confirming the location as a royal settlement of the East Anglian Kings, close to Sutton Hoo – itself a world-famous Anglo-Saxon burial site.

This year’s excavations also uncovered evidence of metalworking associated with royal occupation, including a mould used for casting decorative horse harnesses similar to that known from the burial ground at Sutton Hoo, which was the subject of the Netflix hit film The Dig.

East Anglian Daily Times: The temple is near to Sutton Hoo, the princely burial ground from a similar periodThe temple is near to Sutton Hoo, the princely burial ground from a similar period (Image: Rendlesham Revealed)

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The royal compound was found to have been more than twice the size than previously thought at around 15 hectares, which is equivalent to the size of 20 football pitches.

The compound would have been part of a wider settlement complex covering of around 50 hectares which is unique to the archaeology of fifth to eighth century England.

Professor Christopher Scull of Cardiff University and University College London was the project’s principal academic advisor.

He said: "The results of excavations at Rendlesham speak vividly of the power and wealth of the East Anglian kings, and the sophistication of the society they ruled.

East Anglian Daily Times: The discovery marks three years of the archaeological dig in Rendlesham The discovery marks three years of the archaeological dig in Rendlesham (Image: Rendlesham Revealed)

"The possible temple, or cult house, provides rare and remarkable evidence for the practice at a royal site of the pre-Christian beliefs that underpinned early English society.

"Its distinctive and substantial foundations indicate that one of the buildings, 10 metres long and 5 metres wide, was unusually high and robustly built for its size, so perhaps it was constructed for a special purpose.

"It is most similar to buildings elsewhere in England that are seen as temples or cult houses, therefore it may have been used for pre-Christian worship by the early Kings of the East Angles."

This year’s breakthrough comes after three years of excavation that has transformed the understanding of the period.

Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro, Suffolk County Council’s deputy cabinet member for protected landscapes and archaeology, added: "This year’s findings round off three seasons of fieldwork which confirm the international significance of Rendlesham’s archaeology and its fundamental importance for our knowledge of early England.

East Anglian Daily Times: Melanie Vigo di GallidoroMelanie Vigo di Gallidoro (Image: Contributed)

"Everyone involved in the project can take pride that together we have achieved something remarkable.

"Over 200 volunteers from the local community were involved this year, bringing the total number of volunteers to over 600 for the three-year fieldwork programme, including from the Suffolk Family Carers, Suffolk Mind, and local primary school children from Rendlesham, Eyke and Wickham Market."