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20 Aug 2019

Sutton Hoo ancient royal burial site reopens following redevelopment

Sutton Hoo, the burial site of a 7th century Anglo-Saxon king in Suffolk, England, that achieved worldwide fame upon its discovery in 1938, has reopened following a £4m (US$4.85m, €4.37m) transformation.

The project has enabled a retelling of the story of the discovery of King Raedwald, who was found with his ornate helmet, gold belt buckle, sword and shield after local landowner Edith Pretty called in archaeologist Basil Brown to investigate a series of mysterious mounds on her estate.

Visitors to Sutton Hoo are now greeted by a full-size, 27m (89ft) long sculpture representing the burial ship. The site's exhibition hall has been completely transformed, while the adjacent Tranmer House, which was Mrs Pretty's residence, has also been redeveloped to become part of the publicly accessible attraction for the first time.

The focus within Tranmer House is on the 1939 excavations and those since, using recorded interviews, vintage projections, extracts of diaries, letters, newspapers and photos. Also on show in the house is one of the first ship rivets unearthed, which alerted Brown to the possibility that something significant lay beneath his feet.

In the exhibition hall, new displays will showcase replicas of the original treasures, which are held at British Museum, that were buried with the king to accompany him on his journey to the afterlife. There are also some original pieces on display, such as items from a 1991 excavation which uncovered a warrior and his horse, buried alongside bowls, a sword and a comb.

Using film, sound and displays, the world of the Anglo-Saxons is brought to life for visitors, exploring their culture, food, trade, rituals and skilled craftsmanship.

The National Trust location has another addition to come – a 17m (56ft) high observation tower that will offer birds' eye views across the royal burial ground and beyond, due to open later this year.

Funding for the project has come partly from the UK's National Lottery Heritage Fund, which awarded £1.8m (US$2.18m, €1.97m), with additional money coming from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership's Growing Places Fund, as well as donations from National Trust members and supporters.

"The significance of the Anglo-Saxons at Sutton Hoo continues to resonate today through our language, law, culture, and connections to the landscape," said Laura Howarth, archaeology and engagement manager at Sutton Hoo. "We wanted to create an experience which really does justice to this incredibly important heritage site and we hope our transformation will fire the imagination of our visitors and help them to feel a part of this story."

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