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The Art of Anglo-Saxon Metalwork

Half of one of the pair of shoulder-clasps from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial, described by Dr Evans as “masterpieces from a master-workshop,” (image by Sam Newton).

with Dr Angela Evans

in The Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 3rd December, 2011

The Sutton Hoo ship-burial and the cemetery which it dominates never fails to inspire interest and curiosity. Much has been written about the consummate artistry of the key finds from the ship-burial but the role of the craftsmen who produced them is not so frequently discussed. So after a brief overview of the site and excavations, we shall then concentrate on the art of the metalworker, looking in detail at the iconic objects from Mound 1: the helmet, the shield, the drinking horns, the gold and garnet belt and scabbard fittings, the clasps and purse lid and the great gold buckle, as well as objects that are generally overlooked, like the magnificent iron suspension chain and its associated copper-alloy cauldron. We shall also consider the role of the conservator in restoring the principal finds and will conclude with the magnificent pony bridle from Mound 17.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 We begin a quick reminder of the story of the 1939 excavations at Sutton Hoo and the condition of the major objects in the ground. Using contemporary photographs we will consider not just the element of surprise, consternation and sheer amazement at the wealth of the burial, but the condition of the more fragile objects and the immediate challenge of packing and lifting them. Early record photographs of some of the objects in the British Museum after the end of the Second World War underlines the huge problems that faced restorers and curators.  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 A look at the process of reconstruction of the fragmentary shield, helmet, drinking horns, and lyre and how those reconstructions were flawed, leading to those with which we are familiar today. We will also discuss the construction and decoration of the shield and helmet and examine the recent evidence from metal detecting and chance finds for the repertoire of ornament that puts the helmet in particular within an early Anglo-Saxon orbit. We will end the morning with questions.  
  12.45 Lunch break (bring picnic or eat in NT restaurant)  
  14:00 A consideration of the extraordinarily fine metalwork in the ship-burial with particular emphasis on the craftsmanship and decoration that make the Sutton Hoo Mound 1 material so exceptional. We will look at the gold and garnet suites in detail with particular emphasis on how individual objects were made and decorated and also how they relate to other early high status Anglo-Saxon and Continental finds. We will also look at the range of zoomorphic ornament and examine the influence that Sutton Hoo had on the development of Style II animal interlace in England.  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 We will look at other examples of high status metalwork from the remainder of the cemetery together with other finds from the shield grave at Bromeswell and the horse burial from Eriswell, which illustrate an earlier tradition of high status metalwork of the highest quality from East Anglia. We shall examine the sword-belt fittings and the pony bridle from Mound 17 in detail, the latter in association with the bridle from Eriswell. We will end with questions from the afternoon’s topics.  
  16:15 Close  

About Dr Angela Evans

Dr Angela Care Evans, retired curator of early Anglo-Saxon Antiquities at the British Museum, excavated at Sutton Hoo in the ‘sixties and was a contributing author and editor of the British Museum monographs on Mound 1. She is working on the publication of the finds from the Bromeswell cemetery (the most recent excavations on the National Trust site) and completing her catalogue of Anglo-Saxon sword fittings.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Backhouse, J. The Lindisfarne Gospels (Oxford 1981)
Bruce-Mitford, R., Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology (Gollancz 1974)
Coatsworth, E., & M. Pinder, The Art of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith – Fine Metalwork in Anglo-Saxon England: Its Practice and Practitioners (Boydell 2002)
Evans, A., The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial (British Museum 1986)
Heaney, Seamus (tr.) Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition, ed. J.Niles (Norton 2007)
Leahy, K., & R.Bland, The Staffordshire Hoard (British Museum 2009)
Speake, G., Anglo-Saxon Animal Art (Oxford 1980)
Webster, L., & J.Backhouse, The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600-900 (British Museum 1991)

Bookings

Please phone or email to check the availability of places.  Study Days are £38 per person, which includes a full day of lectures, access to the NT site, parking, coffee and tea throughout the day, and access to the NT exhibition.  Once you have reserved your place please send a cheque to confirm the booking. For your first booking please complete the application form to ensure that we have recorded your contact details correctly.

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

Email cliff AT wuffingeducation.co.uk
(replace 'AT' by '@' in order to send email - we used 'AT' to avoid spam robots automatically sending us emails)
Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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Updated 16 November, 2011
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