In 1939, a self taught archaeologist, Basil Brown, said that he had made "the find of a lifetime."
He wasn't joking.
What he discovered was the royal burial mounds of one of the kings from one of the most powerful kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England: East Anglia. The treasure he unearthed taught us more about the Dark Ages than anything that had gone before.
The unknown king (who may have been Readwald) had a ship burial in a place called Sutton Hoo and alongside his body were wonderful treasures for him to take to the afterlife. The most famous of these is the magnificent mustachioed helmet, but he also had spoons and bowls, weapons, drinking horns and cushions. The items originated from faraway lands, indicating that there was a healthy trading community at this time.
The kingdom of East Anglia still bears the name today and is made up primarily of two counties: Norfolk (north folk) and Suffolk (south folk). It is the rounded bump on the east of England.
The Anglo-Saxons settled here in the early part of the fifth century and the rulers were known as Wuffingas, named after a legendary leader called Wuffa. Raedwald was the first Christian king and this was the golden age for East Anglia, one of the famous 'seven kingdoms', or heptarchy, of Dark Ages England. Pretty much most of the kings battled with the pagan king of Mercia, Penda, from then on. Many lost their lives and even when Penda died, the kingdom of Mercia remained aggressive until the kingdom of Wessex lent a hand.
The Vikings invaded and once again East Anglia was dominated by a more powerful force until they were eventually absorbed into England in the eleventh century.
East Anglia has played its part in history but it is the treasures of Sutton Hoo that keeps it so special. The area is maintained by the National Trust and the goodies are housed at the British Museum.
The British Museum has produced a stunning full-colour nonfiction book about the find, Treasures from Sutton Hoo, which I have in my collection.