Dig uncovers Anglo-Saxon royal palace in Deben Valley
- Credit: Suffolk County Council Local Government Organisation
An archaeological dig has discovered evidence that Anglo-Saxon kings may have called an area near Rendlesham home 1,400 years ago.
This summer's excavation, the first season of digging in a £517,300 four-year-long National Lottery-funded project, uncovered the remains of buildings and pits indicating an large settlement where people took part in farming and craft work.
Volunteers, overseen by experts from Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, found bones from butchered animals, items used in spinning and weaving, fragments of pottery that would have been used for cooking and storage, as well as items of dress such as buttons and brooches.
Professor Christopher Scull, the project’s principal academic advisor, said: “1,400 years ago south-east Suffolk was the power centre of the East Anglian kingdom, which covered modern day Suffolk and Norfolk.
"At Rendlesham, there was a royal settlement which flourished for 300 years from the 5th to the 8th centuries.
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“We have had a terrific team of volunteers and partners this year, and could not have hoped for better results.
"Together we have taken a big step towards a better understanding of this place and its landscape contexts, and we all look forward to continuing the journey of discovery next year when we will be investigating different areas and aspects of the settlement.”
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“Our first season of excavation has unravelled some of the complexities of this internationally-significant site, and given us important insights into the lives of the people whose farming and craft skills supported the early rulers of the East Anglian kingdom."
This summer's dig was part of a community archaeology project called Rendlesham Revealed: Anglo-Saxon Life in South-East Suffolk which seeks to connect the stories of the princely burials of Sutton Hoo and the site of the royal palace at Rendlesham within the context of wider Anglo-Saxon communities.
The newly uncovered settlement dates from around the same time as the famous Sutton Hoo burial, and the less well-known ship burial at Snape that was uncovered in the 1860s.
More than 150 volunteers worked on the project, including people from Suffolk Family Carers, Suffolk Mind and the local Rendlesham and Eyke primary schools.
John Neal, chief executive of Suffolk Mind, said: “Our clients have really benefited from being involved with the archaeological fieldwork, getting hands on, being outdoors and learning something new.
"This has had a positive impact on their mental health, helping our clients to see life from a different perspective and improving their self-awareness beyond their diagnosis.
“Being part of such an important archaeological project has been a wonderful and unique experience for our clients, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Rendlesham Revealed project.”
Councillor Richard Rout, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and environment at Suffolk County Council, said: “The archaeology at Rendlesham is hugely significant and I’m so pleased that we have been able to work with local communities and charities.
"Not only are we understanding more about Suffolk’s history, but we are able to support people by providing new experiences which are benefitting their mental health and wellbeing.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the co-operation of the landowners and the farmers who manage and work this historic landscape, so I thank them for supporting the project and generously allowing the fieldwork to take place.
"This has been a hugely successful first year for the project, I look forward to next summer and the new discoveries we’ll make.”
The digging for this season is complete and the excavations are being backfilled, but local people will be able to volunteer to help again next year.
More about the project can be found here.