Beowulf displays at the beginning and at the end such very lavish burials that they formerly seemed to be the work of the poet’s imagination. Then Sutton Hoo changed all that by giving historic evidence supporting not only the types of burials but also many other aspects of the Old English poem.
“. . . the poem is the product of a great age, the age of Bede, an age which knew artistic achievements of the kind buried at Sutton Hoo . . . (Stanley 3).
Sutton Hoo was the ancestral burial ground of the East Anglian kings, called the Wuffings, from Wuffa. Their father was said to be the first of this dynasty to rule the East Angles. Fifteen of their barrows or grave mounds make up Sutton Hoo; the first was excavated in 1939, and Beowulf has not been the same since.
Mound One contained a a great ship burial, the richest treasure ever dug from British soil, and the most important archaeologicl evidence found in Europe for the era of Germanic migrations during the fifth to seventh centuries (Clark 34). This find made the ship-burial of King Scyld in the opening of Beowulf very realistic and true to historic fact:
Scyld then departed at the appointed time,
still very strong, into the keeping of the Lord….
They laid down the king they had dearly loved,
their tall ring-giver, in the center of the ship,
the mighty by the mast. Great treasure was there,
bright gold and silver, gems from far lands (26-37)
Scyld’s body was placed beside the mast along with a supply of arms and armor, with treasures in his lap, and his golden standard set high over his head. Beow...
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... nineteenth century, but the few fragments remaining suggest its occupant was as richly buried as King Raedwald , and the burial chamber more closely resembles that of Beowulf (Clark 36).
The Sutton Hoo discoveries have provided and continue to provide historic backing for various aspects of the Old English poem Beowulf: the customs, the accoutrements, the symbology, the wealth.
Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.
Clark, George. Beowulf. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
Cramp, Rosemary. “Beowulf and Archaeology.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited by Donald K. Fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.
Stanley, E.G.. “Beowulf.” In The Beowulf Reader, edited by Peter S. Baker. New York: Garland Publishing, 2000.
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