Back to Sutton Hoo – “Dig”

Netflix airs from 29 January 2021, Dig (Excavation), which in a fictional way relates the story of a spectacular discovery by Basil Brown, an archaeologist at the Sutton Hoo site, on the banks of the River Debut in Suffolk on the east coast of England. One of the most fascinating archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. Adapted from the novel by John Preston (2007), the film tells of a 7th-century Anglo-Saxian burial vessel, a tomb ship, directed by Australian director Simon Stone in the lead role with Ralph Fiennes. This is what Sue Bringing, curator of European collections from the early Middle Ages, remembers in a publication from the British Museum in London.

(2/2) He assembled a strong team of assistants including the Pigots, OGS Crawford and WF Grimes. He last visited the site in June 1985 to see the work done by Professor Martin Carver. http: // # Dig 4 @ British Museum

– Sutton Hu (@NT_SuttonHoo) January 22, 2021

Imprint of the Sutton Hu (Safolk) tomb discovered in 1939. Credit: Twitter

In fact, the tomb of Sutton Hu is a powerful character, whose extraordinary treasures have astounded researchers: in a collapsed burial chamber found in 1939, an invaluable array of 263 objects appeared, including a magnificent one decorated with battle scenes. The accessory is made of iron. Precious pieces of shield jewelry and silverware with Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Mediterranean influences. A gold belt buckle in which the plant intervetine, coins of Merovingian France, or a maple wood song were also among the precious items found. Many discoveries that transformed the knowledge that experts were of England’s medieval past spanned from the 5th (after the return of the Romans) to the 10th century (the arrival of the Vikings). Those who have long been called “Dark Age” or “Dark Age” by the British.

# Dig Available now @ NetflixFilm!

The film, based on the true story of an Anglo-Saxon ship-burial discovery on Sutton Hoo, repeats a 1939 excavation with star-studded cast.

Our curator’s blog compares the film to reality:

– British Museum (@britishmuseum) January 29, 2021

Sutton Hu’s excavations in 1939 in Suffolk (England), and pictures from the film “The Dig”. Credit: Twitter

Still … away from these dark qualifiers, the objects revealed on Sutton Hoo bear witness to incredible exchanges over long distances. Wearing a Cloisonne shoulder strap reinforced with an iron helmet and gold leaves, were found to originate from Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean; A silver tray arrives from Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire; The pellets made of a particular type of bitumen collected on the ship have their origins in the Near East and probably Syria, as they are pieces of textiles. A complete treasure that can be seen today in the British Museum in London.

Terms for the discovery of the grave boat

Reconstruction of the ship burial at Sutton Hoo (Suffolk), a royal mausoleum in Anglo-Saxon England. Possibly in the 7th century, the ruler of the former Anglia kingdom, King Raedwald, was buried. Sincerely: Sippa

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So it was on the eve of the Second World War – the twilight in which the film’s shooting was done to announce the imminent – that Edith Pretty, owner of a large estate located at Sutton Hoo, (1883–1942), interpreted by actress Carey Mulligan – Wonder about the presence of high mounds of earth covered with carpet of thin grass. Intrigue, this enlightened lover of archeology, who has already visited several sites, including the Pyramids of Pompeii (Italy), Athens (Greece) or Giza (Egypt), will ask for help. She turned to a local self-taught archaeologist, Basil Brown (1888–1977 – played by Ralph Fiennes – went on to carry out excavations). Dig Will start then.

For this amateur with a reserved personality, studying the first mounds in 1938 would be somewhat disappointing as they have been robbed for centuries already. But in May 1939 everything will change. As the world is on the verge of entering a confrontation with another world, Tulsi Brown strikes the largest of these mounds, making it an untouched one. In a few days, 27-meter long ship stigmas are visible, out of which the wooden planks have disappeared which have consumed the acidity of the sediment. Only the rows of waves and the indentation of the ship’s hull still revolve around the Earth. The “Eureka moment” takes place on July 21, 1939, when the remains of a burial chamber are found, filled with magnificent treasures!

Sutton Hu’s helmet is one of only four Anglo-Saxon helmets that have survived completely. Its facial decoration will be like a dragon, whose wings make up the eyebrows. Sincerely: SIPA

Excavation complete, owner donates Sutton Hoo treasure to England

At that time, no bone remains were found. Traces of the bones will only be identified in the years 1963–1971, when new excavations will be carried out, confirming that a corpse has actually been placed there. But whose was it? No doubt a king, only one who could benefit from such a magnificent burial. Yes but which one? Thanks to the writings of Bede the Weinrable (c. 672–735), citing such an event, the hypothesis has been put forward that it may have been King Rydwald of East Anglia. This high figure was part of a dynasty of Sweden, which reached England around 500. The date of this sovereign’s death – about 624 – may actually correspond to the dating of these relics. However, the true identity of Sutton Hu’s deceased is not clear.

Split shoulder straps, a goldsmith technique similar to these garnets applied to metal jewelry supporting semi-precious stones. Credit: Sipa

The film also features relations between Basil Brown and archaeologists licensed from the University of Cambridge to officially work on this treasure. Notably Charles W. Phillips (1901–1985) – played by Ken Stott – a type of Mandarin who immediately tries to keep him away. The film is a good depiction of the confrontation of classes in England with a divided society. When the excavation was completed, Edith Pretty – who owned it under the applicable law – donated the Sutton Hoo treasury to England. As the war approached, the items were immediately concealed between Holborn and Aldwich stations in an unused section of the London Underground, to protect them from raids by the German Air Force.

The handbag is serving as an attachment to a leather bag that had Frankish gold coins. Sincerely: SIPA

Since its discovery in 1939, every new analysis done on items from the Sutton Hu site has never stopped providing its share of information. So in 2014, for example, an article Journal of European Archeology Indicated that an examination of an iron helmet showed that the 25 garnets placed above the left eye did not glow as much as the right eye was brighter. Experts said this could be understood as a reference to Odin, the god of war, but also the god of wisdom, who, according to legend, sacrificed his left eye to be able to drink from the well of knowledge Had agreed! Today, there is no doubt that the site of Sutton Hoo and its 18 mounds form a necropolis of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy. A notable discovery that this film reveals in a genre far from the cliché typically expressed by cinema. Dig Or the protest of Indiana Jones movies. Watching without moderation.

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