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New treasures could be found as royal burial site to see first dig in decades

PUBLISHED: 16:11 21 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:11 21 May 2018

Work taking place on the original 1939 dig which uncovered the burial ship at Sutton Hoo Picture: BRITISH MUSEUM

Work taking place on the original 1939 dig which uncovered the burial ship at Sutton Hoo Picture: BRITISH MUSEUM

Archant

The project is part of the preparations for the creation of a new viewing tower over the Anglo-Saxon site, part of a bold and ambitious £4million lottery-backed scheme called Releasing the Sutton Hoo Story aimed at transform the experience for visitors.

A computer-generated image of the viewing tower to be built at Sutton Hoo Picture: NISSEN RICHARDS STUDIOA computer-generated image of the viewing tower to be built at Sutton Hoo Picture: NISSEN RICHARDS STUDIO

Led by a team of archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), the dig will also see Sutton Hoo staff and volunteers taking a hands-on role and working alongside the experts throughout the week.

Allison Girling, property operations manager at Sutton Hoo, said: “This is the first dig to happen so close to the burial mounds since 1991, so we’ve been working really closely with the team from MOLA to ensure it is carried out to the highest professional standards.

“But it is also really exciting to be doing this and we want to share as much of it as we can with visitors too, so there will be lots of opportunities to watch the archaeologists at work, ask questions and find out more about what they’re doing.

“Whether it’s a family day out or an academic interest in history, seeing the dig in action will be fascinating.

The Sutton Hoo helmet Picture: BRITISH MUSEUMThe Sutton Hoo helmet Picture: BRITISH MUSEUM

“We honestly don’t know what the excavation might reveal, there could be finds ranging from the iron-age and prehistoric times or the Anglo-Saxon period, but we’ll also be able to learn a lot from the soil itself and discover more about how the land was managed in those times.

“We know that the Anglo-Saxons weren’t the first or last people to leave their mark at Sutton Hoo so it’s impossible to know what we might find until the dig starts, and that’s what makes it so exciting.”

MOLA and the National Trust will be carrying out the dig from Tuesday, May 29, until Saturday, June 2.

Magnus Copps, head of audience engagement at MOLA, said: “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to do this small excavation at Sutton Hoo working with and training volunteers and enabling them to make a robust contribution to our knowledge of this nationally important site.

Sunset over the famous burial mounds, shrouded by mist, at Sutton Hoo. Suffolk. This beautiful estate was home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time Picture: NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/JUSTIN MINNSSunset over the famous burial mounds, shrouded by mist, at Sutton Hoo. Suffolk. This beautiful estate was home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time Picture: NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/JUSTIN MINNS

“It’s something we try to do with all of our projects, but to have the opportunity on such a significant site is amazing.”

Releasing the Sutton Hoo Story will help visitors to explore and discover more about the story of a place that changed what we knew about history and has intrigued people around the world for decades.

In addition to the towerover the 7th century Royal Burial Ground and beyond to the River Deben, where the ship carrying the Anglo-Saxon King Rædwald is believed to have arrived before being hauled to its final resting place, the project will see Tranmer House, the former home of Edith Pretty who instigated the 1939 dig, transformed with a new exhibition exploring a timeline of multiple discoveries and the ongoing research at this and other archaeological sites.

Enhanced guided tours, thought-provoking activities and installations, innovative interpretation and creative programming will all sit alongside a schools education programme. Partnership working with archaeological bodies, the British Museum and the local community will all help to bring both the landscape and Exhibition Hall to life.

The Deben river during low-tide at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk Picture: NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/JUSTIN MINNSThe Deben river during low-tide at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk Picture: NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/JUSTIN MINNS

It’s all part of a major project that will see a huge transformation at Sutton Hoo, helping Last year, the National Trust was able to announce it had won support for the work with a £1.8million National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In total, £4million will be invested at Sutton Hoo thanks to the generosity and support of National Trust members and visitors.

The land is designated as a Scheduled Monument due to its significance as a historical site and archaeological investigations must take place before building work gets underway.

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