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Replica of the helmet from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial, England. (CC by SA 2.0 / British Museum)

Workshop Discovered Near Famous Sutton Hoo Ship Burial


Archaeologists in England have unearthed a 7th century workshop in the village of Rendlesham near the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial. Among the broken tools and storage jars discovered at the Rendlesham workshop, scientists believe it is also where the famous helmet of King Raedwald, who was buried in the ship, was expertly crafted.

Sutton Hoo is the site of two 6th to 7th centuries early medieval cemeteries located near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, England. In 1939 a rare ship burial was discovered loaded with a hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasures, a story that was recently told in the Netflix hit The Dig . Now, only three miles (4.82 km) from the ship burial site an Anglo Saxon settlement site and workshop has been discovered.

Spindle whorls for spinning, loom weights for weaving and a copper alloy brooch and buckle were all discovered at the ancient manufacturing site. The so-called Rendlesham workshop is thought to be the place where the treasures were created that were discovered at Sutton Hoo ship burial. It was within this building that the archaeologists discovered a helmet that they now believe was owned by East Anglia’s legendary King Raedwald, who was buried in the Sutton Hoo ship burial.

Rendlesham Has Always Been Big On Ships

Dating back at least 1,400 years, the new Anglo-Saxon site represents a hub of ancient crafts. It was discovered near Rendlesham village in Suffolk, which was a royal center of authority for the kings of the East Angles. While Sutton Hoo is often described as the UK’s greatest archaeological discovery, the area itself is equally well known for the “Rendlesham Forest incident” of December of 1980, when U.S. army personnel from RAF Woodbridge reported UFO landings.

Archaeologists first identified melted metal fragments and slag, which told them the site was used for iron smithing and the production of copper alloy tools and artifacts. A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council told the Daily Mail that the evidence of craft working at Rendlesham can be “associated with some of the objects discovered in the Sutton Hoo burial grounds.” The elaborate helmet is believed to have not only served in battle, but also, in times of peace it doubled as the crown of East Anglia’s 7th century AD King Raedwald , who was interred in the Sutton Hoo ship burial.

Unearthing an Ancient Seat of Royal Power at Rendlesham

The new excavations represent the first phase of a four-year project that is being fueled by a £517,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant. To protect the site from treasure hunters , the exact location is not being made public at this time. 150 volunteers, comprising many children from Rendlesham primary school and the Suffolk Family Carers charity, were led by Suffolk council’s archaeological service and Cotswold Archaeology Ltd, all helping to interpret the site.

Besides the copper alloy buckle and clothes manufacturing devices discovered at the settlement site, clay cooking and storage jars were found with the fragmentary remains of cattle, sheep and pigs. Putting this workshop in context, excavations nearby between 2008 and 2014 unearthed what is believed to have been King Raedwald’s palace. Professor Chris Scull, the project’s principal academic adviser, told the Daily Mail that the entire area at Rendlesham was a royal “power center” of Raedwald’s early medieval East Anglian kingdom.

Archaeologists have unearthed many gold and silver artifacts at Rendlesham, as well as objects which suggest skilled craft workers were producing meta artifacts in the 6th and 7th centuries. (Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service)

Archaeologists have unearthed many gold and silver artifacts at Rendlesham, as well as objects which suggest skilled craft workers were producing meta artifacts in the 6th and 7th centuries. ( Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service )

Charting the Domain of a Mediaeval Textile King.

Professor Chris Scull concludes that the latest excavation has “unravelled some of the complexities of this internationally significant site,” where farmers and craftspeople supported the early rulers of the East Anglian kingdom. So who was this all powerful King Raedwald? Raedwald, also spelled Redwald, son of Tytili, died between 616 AD and 627 AD as the king of the East Angles in England. According to Britannia , in the early 7th century Raedwald converted to Christianity and famously protected the fugitive Edwin (later king of Northumbria).

At that time East Anglia was one of the largest kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England. During the late medieval period, the entire region became known for its wool production, and the manufacture of woolen products. This is why so many spindle whorls and knitting devices were found at the workshop. And with wool-thirsty aristocrats in rich European cities, Raedwald seems to have amassed a fortune, going by the treasure hoard recovered at Sutton Hoo.

Top image: Replica of the helmet from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial, England. ( CC by SA 2.0 / British Museum )

By Ashley Cowie



Fascinating stuff. We're getting some stellar finds from England of late.

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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