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Major new exhibition brings together treasures from a golden age of Anglo-Saxon England

Two of the most important Anglo-Saxon archaeological discoveries to have ever been made are to be reunited when Sutton Hoo hosts a major new exhibition.

The show in May will bring together original treasures from the famous Anglo-Saxon burial site alongside objects from the Staffordshire Hoard.

The exhibition will be the first time that objects from the Staffordshire Hoard have been on display in East Anglia, marking a possible home-coming for the items, with scholars believing the treasures found in the Hoard could have been made in workshops in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia before being taken elsewhere.

This will be the first major new exhibition hosted at Sutton Hoo since the property reopened following a £4m transformation last year.

Alongside the Staffordshire Hoard items, it will also see original objects from the famous 1939 dig at Sutton Hoo, on loan from the British Museum, displayed together with further Anglo-Saxon finds on loan from Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery.

Sutton Hoo (30138693)
Sutton Hoo (30138693)

The largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever found, the Staffordshire Hoard joined the Sutton Hoo Mound One discovery as one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon finds ever made and of a quality rarely seen when it was unearthed by a metal detectorist in a farmer’s field in 2009.

Bearing remarkably similar details in design and craftsmanship as the treasures found at Sutton Hoo, it is now believed that many of the objects from the Staffordshire Hoard were made in the same seventh century East Anglian workshops as much of the gold and garnet cloisonné jewellery from Sutton Hoo. Believed to have been buried between c.650-675 in the kingdom of Mercia, the Staffordshire Hoard is predominantly made up of weaponry fittings and it is estimated that the fittings could have come from between 100-150 different swords. Their owners would have commanded in some of the great battles of the kingdom wars of seventh century Anglo-Saxon England.

This temporary exhibition has been put together by guest curator Chris Fern, an expert in the Staffordshire Hoard and will see a selection of items from the Hoard on display alongside finds from Sutton Hoo Mound One, found in 1939, such as one of the gold and garnet shoulder clasps, gold and garnet sword pyramids, three gold Anglo-Saxon coins and the gold sword belt buckle. These objects are all usually on display at the British Museum, having been donated to the nation by Sutton Hoo’s then owner, Mrs Edith Pretty.

Sutton Hoo (30138685)
Sutton Hoo (30138685)

Chris Fern said: “It is wonderful to see these objects – the pinnacle of craftsmanship in their day, astounding in their artistic genius – returned to the kingdom of East Anglia where their story began.

“Through them we can glimpse a time when warriors and kings in widespread regional kingdoms fought for supremacy in an age of gold and of the coming of Christianity.”

Housed in Sutton Hoo’s temporary exhibition space, the display will sit alongside the permanent exhibition of both original and replica items.

Newly unveiled in August 2019, the Sutton Hoo permanent exhibitions followed the £4million project to completely transform and enhance how the story of the Anglo-Saxons who buried their royal dead is told alongside the stories of the people who went on to make the amazing discoveries centuries later.

Laura Howarth, Archaeology and Engagement Manager at Sutton Hoo said: “Seventy years separates the discoveries of Sutton Hoo and the Staffordshire Hoard, but both have illuminated our understanding of the culture and society of this golden age of Anglo-Saxon England.

“To be able to display these items from the Staffordshire Hoard alongside original treasures from Mound One here at Sutton Hoo is a dream come true and will mean that for the first time, we’re able to see these objects alongside each other back in the region where we believe they were made 1,400 years ago.

“Whether you have been to Sutton Hoo before or are yet to discover it, this exhibition will offer a really special opportunity to see objects from these collections brought together at arguably the most famous of all Anglo-Saxon sites.”

The exhibition supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund will see 62 original Anglo-Saxon objects on display, on loan from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, the British Museum and Norwich Museum & Art Gallery.

Opening on Thursday, May 14, Swords of Kingdoms: The Staffordshire Hoard at Sutton Hoo will be on display until November 29.

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