What was found at Sutton Hoo?

Sutton Hoo replica King's helmet and shoulder clasps ©Phil Morley

A replica of the helmet discovered at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk - Credit: Phil Morley

Netflix's film The Dig - based on the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon ship at Sutton Hoo - has been released today. Here's what was found in the historic excavation back in 1939.

How were the treasures found?

Basil Brown, a self-taught archaeologist, was commissioned to excavate Edith Pretty's Sutton Hoo estate near Woodbridge after she became curious about several mounds on her land.

Mr Brown was paid 30 shillings a week while working on the excavation and lodged with Edith's chauffeur.


In May 1939, Mr Brown and his team began painstakingly digging a trench under one of the mounds.


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After several hours of excavation, the team was shocked to discover the outline of a 27-metre long 7th century Anglo-Saxon ship.

The wooden ship had rotted away years ago, but had left a 'ghost' imprint in the soil.

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In the centre of the ship's outline was a burial chamber full of treasures - including weapons, shields, buckles, shoulder clasps and pots.

A helmet that was discovered has gone on to become a symbol of the Anglo-Saxon period.

May historians believe the ship was used as the grave of Rædwald, King of East Anglia, who is thought to have died in 624.

What was the discovery's impact?

A curator from the British Museum described the Sutton Hoo discovery as “one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time”.

The historic finds were deemed to be the property of Edith Pretty as she owned the land on which they were excavated from - but she donated them to museums across the country.

Edith Pretty was deemed the owner of the treasures, but she donated them to the nation

Edith Pretty was deemed the owner of the treasures, but she donated them to the nation - Credit: National Trust

The Sutton Hoo helmet is currently on display at the British Museum in London.

East Anglian Daily Times reporter Alfred Bowden broke the world exclusive about the discovery of the treasures in July 1939, and our newspapers have been faithfully recreated for the film.

The Netflix drama starring A-listers Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan and Lily James was partially recorded in Suffolk towards the end of 2019.

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