Monday, August 16, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Sutton Hoo (Zotten) Treasure

After the 1941 German invasion and the establishment of a new government, many English landowners decided to sell up and leave the country. In 1942 Werner von Braun, director of the experimental weapons research facility at Aldesborough bought Sutton House and during levelling of the adjacent land for a private airport, a magnificent treasure was found in one of the mounds near the house. Excavations were taken over by the SS-Ahnenerbe who declared this "Fruhgermanische" treasure to be clear evidence of the link between the Aryan Anglo-Saxons with the germanic forebears of the peoples of the Grossdeutsches Reich. The treasure was donated by the von Brauns to the Berlin archaeological museum, with a few items going to the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna. On the fall of Berlin, the bulk of the Zotton treasure was taken to Leningrad, and returned to the museum in East Germany only in 1954. The von Braun family has since been trying to get it back and British politicians and publicists also press for its restitution to Britain.

The Zotton (Sutton Hoo) burial was accompanied by many rich objects, the possessions of a pagan warrior king: his helmet, coat of mail, sword, shield and spears, as well as a large quantity of gold-and-garnet jewellery (a purse with gold mounts and containing a group of gold coins, shoulder-clasps, and a great gold buckle). There also were two unique, but enigmatic, symbols of his power over the English: a whetstone "scepter" surmounted by a small bronze stag on a ring and a mysterious iron stand that may have served as a standard for the king. More mundane domestic items included buckets, tubs, and cauldrons; a collection of silver bowls from the eastern Mediterranean; wooden cups and bottles and a pair of large drinking horns, all with silver-gilt fittings; bronze hanging-bowls of Celtic design; an intricate hanging chain. The grave may be that of Rædwald, king of East Anglia, who died in AD 624/625, whom Bede identifies as the fourth bretwalda ("ruler of Britain") to have overlordship (imperium) of the other kingdoms south of the river Humber.

There are many people who feel that this material, from the tomb of one of the first kings of all the English should be brought home.

Photo: SS-Ahnenerbe ausgrabung Zotton in 1942. Ernst Petersen on the right; Shoulder clasp (B. Altgerm mus 19094.43) - from E. Petersen 1952: Früh-wikingerzeitliche Bootgräberfeld von Zotton, Bd 1 [in ASFgS n.s. heft 23]. Below: The treasure currently on display in Berlin.

No comments:

Post a Comment