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Vintage Footage Volume 54 Number 4, July/August 2001
by Kristin M. Romey

Recently discovered film footage of an excavation that took place more than 60 years ago is offering archaeologists a fascinating new look at Sutton Hoo, the richest Anglo-Saxon ship burial ever discovered in Britain.

Elaborate gold jewelry and the remains of an 89-foot-long vessel were among the finds from an early seventh-century B.C. burial mound at the site, believed to be that of the Anglo-Saxon king Raedwald.

Excavations began in 1938 by landowner Edith Pretty, who recruited her chauffeur and gardener to help investigate the mound. A team from London's Science Museum, led by Charles Phillips, took over once the significance of the discovery became apparent.

Phillips' brother Harold filmed the cleaning and documentation of the ship during the final days of excavation. Harold later emigrated to Canada, where his grandson Jeremy Gilbert discovered the film, which is said to be of exceptional clarity.

"The excavation record made by the Science Museum was destroyed during the Blitz, so this film along with one other and some photos are the only record we have of this priceless discovery," says National Trust archaeologist Angus Wainwright. Excerpts from the film will be shown at the new exhibition center at Sutton Hoo, which will open in spring 2002.

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© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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