The art of jewelry, goldsmithing, the delicate work of metals, have been worked since the beginning of time. We have talked about it on this blog, marveling at the Villena treasure, or the Guarrazar.
But today we are going to go a little (just a little) further. Bundle up well, for we are setting out for cold 7th-century England in search of Sutton Hoo’s treasure.
Navigate to the afterlife
Sutton Hoo is a place located at Suffolk , in eastern England. Between the 6th and 7th centuries, the British Isles lived a dance of tribes and peoples equivalent to the one we live in Spain more or less at the same time. Here we had Swabians, Vandals, Alans, and above all Visigoths.
Both indigenous and Romanized Celtic tribes lived and died there, as well as invading Germans and Scandinavians. Everything, we go: Picts, Britons, Jutes, Saxons, Angles.
That corner of England, Suffolk, was called at that time the “Kingdom of the East Angles,” or Estanglia, and the greatest extent of its power was known under the reign of Redwald of Estanglia. Later known as Bretwalda.
This king was the first ruler of the Eastern Angles to convert to Christianity. A singular man who survived in the chronicles of the time. Which, by the way, there are very few. A unique man… Whose grave was presumably found in 1939 at Sutton Hoo, under a burial mound like so many others in the same area.
A tomb that was a ship, in which the king was left with a great treasure, so that he could undertake his last journey to the afterlife in the best possible conditions. It must have been a good trip.
Sutton Hoo’s Treasure Pieces
Inside the ship (about 30 meters long) they found several weapons, armor, and a helmet, all ceremonial, pieces made with delicate skill. The reproductions of the helmet, in iron and bronze, are impressive:
But what is really impressive are the ornamental stones of the suit.
Like this great gold fibula, with an intricately engraved Celtic interlacing, and made with such skill that it keeps a reliquary inside:
These wonderful pieces show the fusion of Scandinavian and Celtic art, with techniques and other Mediterranean styles (they also found about 20 fine Byzantine silver bowls), and even silver spoons, two of which read “PAULOS” and “SAULOS. ”, a very clear Christian reference. You can currently see the collection at British Museum.
Sutton Hoo is a treasure in the strictest sense of the word, yes: the beauty and value of those artistic pieces is incalculable.
But it is also a historical treasure, because it is a living testimony of a time of fusion of cultures, struggles, desperate creativity… And a reminder that even in the darkest of times, humans tend to comfort ourselves in beauty. of jewelry art.