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Saxon treasures return to Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 08:44 09 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 March 2010

ORIGINAL Saxon treasures found buried in a ship at Sutton Hoo in 1939 in one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever made have returned to their birth place.

ORIGINAL Saxon treasures found buried in a ship at Sutton Hoo in 1939 in one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever made have returned to their birth place.

The British Museum has loaned the valuable treasures, estimated to be worth tens of millions of pounds, for six months to be the centre piece of a new £5 million exhibition centre at the burial ground over-looking the river Deben.

Since the discovery, the British Museum has restored and looked after the relics and yet for more than half a century the public has been largely unaware of the treasure's significance.

The new visitor centre at the burial ground of pagan kings is set to open to the public next Thursday, the day after the official opening by author Seamus Heaney.

The collection which arrived from London yesterday, includes a 7th century sword with decorative handle embellished with gold and garnet, a beautifully gilded shield decorated with a dragon and eagle and some sword belt fittings with geo-metric designs also in gold and garnet.

Other artefacts include weaponry, shields and bronze bowls.

Angela Evans, curator of Early Anglo-Saxon Material at the British Museum, accompanied the treasure on its journey back to Suffolk along with a team of expert conservators. She said: "It's great for the treasure to be back in Suffolk, back at its home in Sutton Hoo."

She said that over the years the vast majority of the Sutton Hoo treasure will be brought to the centre for temporary exhibitions.

Also on display at the exhibition is a fibre-glass reconstruction of a young man found buried with his horse at Sutton Hoo, which has been sunk into the floor of the display area.

Treasures also found with the corpse include a petite buckle which was unusual to be found with such a burly warrior and a very elaborate horse harness.

The remains were found during a dig in the 1980s and the man is believed to be an execution victim.

National Trust expert Angus Wainwright said: "The horse was a status symbol and was the equivalent of a Ferrari in the 7th century. He was the boy-racer of his time."

Top-level security was built into the visitor centre from the start to guard the objects which have not been seen in Suffolk since their discovery.

The Trust is inviting about 150 guests to the opening ceremony including representatives from the Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund which provided a £3.6m grant for the project.

WEBLINK: www.nationaltrust.org.uk

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