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Art & Poetry in the Dream-Ship from Sutton Hoo

Sunset over the River Deben, 1994 – Sutton Hoo is in the far distance on the right (Sam Newton 1994)

Sunset over the River Deben, 1994 – Sutton Hoo is in the far distance on the right (Sam Newton 1994)

with Dr Sam Newton

at the Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 16th March 2013.

We begin with a look at the examples of ship- and boat-burial in the early kingdom of East Anglia before a look at the greatest of them all, that berthed beneath the Mound One at Sutton Hoo, the famous dream-inspired discovery made in 1939. We shall survey some of the artistic and technical wonders found aboard before embarking on a course exploring the significance of the rite of ship- and boat-funeral.
We shall see how the central narrative of the vessel that ferries the soul in and out of this middangeard, this mortal world, provided a parable through which folk could understand some of the big questions of life. The implication is that that death was viewed as a point of embarkation for a voyage to a heavenly haven over the horizon, out of sight of mortal shores.
We shall see how this implication is amplified by Old English poetry, especially the epic of Beowulf, the opening movement of which culminates with a splendid poetic account of a royal ship-funeral. Not only does this provide a narrative which ordinary folk could follow, it also sets the rite in a high-culture perspective of heroic and dynastic origin legend ultimately stemming from a deeper narrative of ancient fertility myth. We shall also chart examples of the use this great marine metaphor of life and death elsewhere in archaeology, art, and literature.

Provisional Programme
(There may be variations to the programme on the day.)
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 The Rite of Ship & Boat-Burial in East Anglia  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 The Dream-Ship of Sutton Hoo  
  12.45 Lunch break  
  14:00 The Royal Rite of Ship-Funeral in Beowulf  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 The Soul’s Ferry: Old English Ship Symbolism  
  16:20 Close  

About Dr Sam Newton

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991 and is the author of The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (1993) and The Reckoning of King Rædwald (2003). He has lectured widely around the country as an independent scholar and has contributed to many radio and television programmes. He is also a Director of Wuffing Education, NADFAS lecturer, and Time Team historian.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Alexander, M. (tr.), Beowulf: A Glossed Text (Penguin Classics 1995, 2000)
Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)
Bruce-Mitford, R., Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology (Gollancz 1974)
Evans, A.C., The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial (British Museum 1986)
Filmer-Sankey, W., & T.Pestell, Snape Anglo-Saxon Cemetery: Excavations and Surveys 1824-1992, East Anglian Archaeology Report 95 (Ipswich 2001).
Fulk, R.D., R.E.Bjork, & J.D.Niles, Klaeber’s Beowulf (4th edn, Toronto 2009)
Green, C., Sutton Hoo: The Excavation of a Royal Ship-Burial (Merlin 1988)
Heaney, Seamus (tr.) Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition, ed. J.Niles (Norton 2007)
Lee, S. D., & E. Solopova, The Keys of Middle-earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)
Newton, S. The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (Brewer 1993)
Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald: The Story of the King linked to the Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial (Redbird 2003)
Shippey, T.A., The Road to Middle-earth (Allen and Unwin, 1982; rev. edn Harper Collins, 2003)
Speake, G., Anglo-Saxon Animal Art (Oxford 1980)
Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lost Road and Other Writings, ed. C.Tolkien (Unwin Hyman 1987)
Webster, L., & J.Backhouse, The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600-900 (British Museum 1991)


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

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Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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