Ship-Burial and Treasure Trove in Suffolk


    THE verdict of the jury at the coroner's inquest, which took place on Aug. 14, on the Anglo-Saxon ship-burial, or rather on the grave furniture in precious metals found therein, at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk (see Nature of August 5, p. 239), was such as, perhaps, might well have been expected. It would be more than difficult to argue convincingly that a royal burial, in the circumstances indicated here by the character of the relics, could have taken place with that secrecy and intention to resume possession, which have been laid down from time to time in legal pronouncement as the essential principle of ‘treasure trove’. Unless the matter is carried further in the High Court, as Mr. L. H. Vulliamy, the coroner, indicated as a possibility, the Sutton Hoo treasure now becomes legally the property of Mrs. E. M. Pretty, the owner of the land upon which the burial was found by Mr. Guy Maynard of the Ipswich Museum. It may be hoped, however, that arrangements will be made in due course to ensure its display to the public and availability for study, as its historic interest demands. It would now appear, since there has been an opportunity for the articles to be examined and cleaned in the British Museum, that the find is far more valuable than was at first reported. This is shown in the evidence of Mr. C. W. Phillips of Selwyn College, Cambridge, who had been in charge of the opening of the tumulus since July, and also in a supplementary note contributed by The Times museum correspondent in the issue of August 15 which mentions more especially the silver. The objects in this metal include six shapely shallow bowls in almost perfect preservation, about 8 or 9 inches across, and all provincial Byzantine or late Roman. They are decorated with a broad cross, usually of a quatrefoil pattern. A silver dish decorated with a classical woman's head is provincial Byzantine work of the sixth century. A large platter, 28 inches across, was made at Constantinople, and bears marks of the reign of Anastasius I. The gold work, however, is Saxon, and is said to be extremely massive. In association were forty Merovingian coins. It is thought that this may be the burial place of Redwald, the first of the East Anglian royal family to become High King of England.

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    Ship-Burial and Treasure Trove in Suffolk. Nature 144, 318–319 (1939).

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