The Farm Boy and the Golden Ship: Sutton Hoo’s Treasures Revealed | Science

Basil Brown was a farm boy from Rickinghall in Suffolk, who dropped out of school at around the age of 13 to work on his father’s estate. He seemed intent on spending his life working the land.

Brown, born in 1888, certainly succeeds in the mission – but not by farming. He went to work the ground in a completely different way.

As a young man, he had a passion: discovering hidden treasures and unraveling archaeological secrets in the local countryside. And like Netflix Movie drillingReleased January 29, it reveals, it won in stunning fashion – with the discovery of the Sutton Hoo Treasure in 1939.

Under a large pile of land on private land outside Woodbridge in Suffolk, Brown plays his part Ralph Vines – Unveiled the buried remains of a 27-meter-long ship; A secret compartment filled with gold and silver. Bejeweled sword. Gold shoulder clasps inlaid with agate; Bits of iron were subsequently assembled to create the distinctive and elaborate Sutton Hoo helmet. The 7th century treasure was the richest tomb excavated in Europe.

“Brown has discovered this country’s greatest archaeological treasure, and in the process it changed our understanding of English life in the early Middle Ages,” says Sue Browning, Curator of the Sutton Hoo Collection at the British Museum.

Before Sutton Hoo, it was believed that Britain had deteriorated greatly culturally and economically after the departure of the Romans. But Brown uncovered treasures in this quiet corner of England that could be traced from sources throughout Europe and Asia and showed that a vast trade in wealth was taking place in it. Time … England was not in a cultural bind. “

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The Sutton Hoo helmet, the centerpiece of the collection, was rebuilt from fragments and may have belonged to a king.

The Sutton Hoo helmet, the centerpiece of the collection, was rebuilt from fragments and may have belonged to a king. Photography: Olli Scarfe / Getty Images

The original decision to excavate Sutton was made by wealthy widow Edith Pretty (played by Cary Mulligan). Her possessions there were filled with burial mounds that had been looted in Tudor’s time. I wondered if there was any treasure left? The experts at the Ipswich Museum recommended Brown – who at the time had taken evening lessons while managing the small estate he took over from his father, obtained numerous certificates, and began working on local archaeological excavations.

In 1938, he conducted two pits that provided promising results and decided the following year to investigate the property’s largest hill. Soon after starting his work, Brown discovered a rusting piece of iron that he identified as a rivet from the bow of the ship.

Very slowly peel the soil to reveal the full pot shape. The wood had fallen apart but the nails had snapped into place meticulously revealing the perfect outlines of a Saxon longship. It was a stunning sight: a ghostly photo of an ancient ship printed on Suffolk soil.

Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo

At that time, almost all ship burials were found in Norway and were of Norwegian origin. But Brown soon realized that this was not a Viking ship but an Anglo-Saxon ship from an earlier period. “It is the discovery of a lifetime,” he wrote in his diary on June 29, 1939.

Excavations progressed to reveal a separate, painstakingly once again burial chamber. Its treasures proved equally strange as Brown discovered on July 22 when he was summoned by his team’s enthusiastic cries and found that a treasure trove had been discovered.

“I never expected to see so much gold in any dig in this country,” Brown wrote that night. “There was a heavy gold buckle, a beautiful golden wallet frame, containing 39 gold pieces … a pure gold belt with the finest Cloisonne Action. All things shone in the sunlight as on the day they were buried. “

The effort and resources involved in towing a ship deep in dry land before filling it with treasure and then burying it would have been a wonderful undertaking, reminiscent of the images of the ancient English poem Beowulf with its high wooden halls and mighty kings and nobles. Brown helped repaint our image of England in the early Middle Ages.

Initially, no human remains were found at the site, and he concluded that it was supposed to be more than a mausoleum rather than a grave. “However, later excavations indicated decomposing organic remains that could be human,” Browning said. “For a good measure, a huge sword was placed decorated in a manner consistent with the tombs of other warriors. So I am confident that this was the grave of a great individual, perhaps even a king.”

An intricate detail depicting snakes and birds on a golden belt buckle, revealed at the site.

An intricate detail depicting snakes and birds on a golden belt buckle, revealed at the site. Photography: Andrew Parsons / PA

However, that person’s identity is not certain. King Rydwald, who died around 625 AD, remains the best candidate, although there is still disagreement among archaeologists over who is buried in Sutton Hoo.

As for the immediate fate of the Brown dynasty, that was less glamorous. On 3 September, Britain declared war on Germany and the country entered a state of military lockdown. Sutton Hoo was covered and the gold and silver were transported to the Aldwich Underground station in London where the British Museum was storing its greatest treasures. After only a few weeks in sunlight, he was tunneled 10 times deeper than his original resting place in Suffolk and returned to darkness until the end of the war.

Today, the treasure has been given its own room in the British Museum. The helmet, which was found torn in pieces of Sutton Hoo, was assembled, and the rest of its treasures are on public display – a memorial to the evolution of our ancestors in the 7th century and to Basil Brown who discovered their laurels.

“He did a great job excavating the ship at Sutton Hoo,” says Brunning. He might have self-taught but he was an amazing archeologist. As for the movie, I think it gives a lot of credit to the man and the discovery. “

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