Dyeing Sutton Hoo Nordic Blonde: An Interpretation of Swedish Influences on the East Anglian Gravesite
Nearly seventy years have passed since the series of tumuli surrounding Edith Pretty's estate at Sutton Hoo in Eastern Suffolk, England were first excavated, and the site, particularly the magnificent ship-burial and its associated pieces located in Mound 1, remains enigmatic to archaeologists and historians. Dated to approximately the early seventh century, the Sutton Hoo entombment retains its importance by illuminating a period of English history that straddles both myth and historical documentation. The burial also exists in a multicultural context, an era when Scandinavian influences factored heavily upon society in the British Isles, predominantly in the areas of art, religion and literature.
Literary works such as the Old English epic of Beowulf, a tale of a Geatish hero and his Danish and Swedish counterparts, offer insight into the cultural background of the custom of ship-burial and the various accoutrements of Norse warrior society. Beowulf may hold an even more specific affinity with Sutton Hoo, in that a character from the tale, Weohstan, is considered to be an ancestor of the man commemorated in the ship-burial in Mound 1. Weohstan, whose allegiance lay with the Geats, was nonetheless a member of the Wægmunding clan, distant relations to the Swedish Scylfing dynasty. This royal family also possessed its own series of burial sites, Gamla Uppsala, Husby, Vendel and Valsgärde, which demonstrate a resemblance with Sutton Hoo in both the method of entombment and the objects uncovered within it. In point of fact, the pieces unearthed at both Sutton Hoo and the Swedish gravesites, namely the helmets and shields, possess a likeness so remarkable that many archaeologists believe the objects were cast from the same die. This paper will further examine these aforementioned literary and archaeological aspects and interpret the Swedish element that pervades the Sutton Hoo burial site.
School:Bowling Green State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:beowulf vendel sutton hoo ship burial scylding scylfing wuffing
Date of Publication:01/01/2008