Sutton Hoo ship

This Anglo-Saxon ship was discovered by Basil Brown in 1939 in a burial mound near Woodbridge, Suffolk, in south-east England, and was excavated in 1939 and in 1965-7.

The ship is dated by objects, including coins, found in the burial chamber. It is thought that this was the burial of the East Anglian king Raedwald who died 625-6 AD.

The ship had completely decayed, leaving a stain in the ground and rust patches where the iron rivets lay. Careful excavation disclosed a clinker-built ship about 27m long, 4.5m wide and 1.5m high amidships. There was a keel-plank attached to the stem and sternposts by iron bolts. There were nine oak strakes on each side, each comprising several planks scarfed end to end, and all were held by iron rivets. There were twenty-six frames that had been fastened by treenails to the planks. Two frames with club-shaped upper ends suggest that the side rudder lay on the starboard side at the stern. Thole pins on the gunwale indicate rowing positions fore and aft of the centre of the vessel, and had they extended throughout the ship there would have been 20 rowers a side.

No structural evidence was found to show that the vessel had been propelled by sail, so it is possible that it was a rowed 'royal barge' rather than a practical seagoing vessel. Computer calculations, however, show that the vessel could have been propelled by sail.

Main Publications:

A.C.Evans, 'The ship' in R. Bruce-Mitford (ed), The Sutton Hoo ship burial. 1975, Cambridge.

A.C.Evans, The Sutton Hoo ship burial. 1994, London.

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