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Sutton Hoo: Craftsmen in Iron and Bronze

The wrought-iron suspension chain from Mound 1(Bruce-Mitford 1983, fig.366)

with Dr Angela Evans

at the Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 8th December 2012

The precious metal finds from Mound 1 inevitably overshadow the achievements of the craftsmen who worked in lesser metals. The day will focus on the work of the smiths who made both remarkable and functional objects in iron and copper-alloy – metalworking that more than equals the work of the goldsmiths and lapidaries.

Provisional Programme
(There may be variations to the programme on the day – all these subjects will be covered, but not necessarily in the advertised order.)
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 General introduction followed by an overview of the cemetery and the ship burial, firstly in the context of the early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and secondly in the context of other broadly contemporary high status burials – Taplow, Prittlewell, Broomfield, Benty Grange. The burial chamber will be examined and, using 1939 excavation photographs, the key objects of iron and copper-alloy which will form the content of the following sessions will be identified. In second half of the session, the complex structure of the helmet and shield will remind the audience of the levels of craftsmanship in iron and copper-alloy that were present in the kingdom of the East Angles by the second half of the sixth century. The identical pattern-welded swords in Mounds 1 and 2 will be looked at if time permits, or will be introduced in session 2.  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 Iron. The session will start with an overview of blacksmithing techniques and tools and will consider initially the simplest of the iron artefacts in the ship burial – the fittings of the ship itself. We will then examine the ironwork in order of its complexity, beginning with the fittings of the tub, the three buckets and the three cauldrons, the iron lamp, the knives and concluding with the great cauldron chain and the stand. Technological links to objects in both Taplow and Prittlewell will be included.  
  12.45 Lunch break  
  14:00 Copper-alloy. This session will begin with a brief overview of bronze-working techniques, followed by an examination of the three cauldrons together with relevant comparative material. The three hanging-bowls, products of a different tradition will then be explained. The largest of these, hanging-bowl 1, opens a window on two aspects of fine metalworking – enamelling and casting in the round. The traditions of the reserved ornament in the enamel work lie outside the kingdom of the East Angles, but the limited use of enamel within the kingdom and the use of foils on hanging-bowl 2 may hint at more local manufacture. More remarkable is the enamelled fish at the centre of the hanging-bowl 1 and the session will conclude with a close look at this and the cast copper-alloy stag that surmounts the whetstone.  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Gilded and tinned copper-alloy. The art of enriching copper-alloy with either gilding or tinning, together with niello or silver inlay, to emphasise decorative elements, is one of the commonest techniques in early Anglo-Saxon metalwork and many of the objects in the Sutton Hoo ship burial benefit from this. Among the objects that will be looked at are fittings from the maplewood drinking bottles and the walnut burrwood cups. Enriching techniques are also used on the great shield and the helmet as well as the fittings of the lyre and the session will conclude with a close look at the way metal-smiths treated these exceptional possessions.  
  16:20 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 excavations on the National Trust site in 2000 and completing her catalogue of Anglo-Saxon sword fittings.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Some Useful Websites
www.britishmuseum.org for Sutton Hoo, Taplow and Broomfield
http://finds.org.uk/ for the Staffordshire Hoard Symposium papers

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 13 December, 2012
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