06 February 2021

"The Dig" and the Sutton Hoo helmet

An outstanding movie in every regard.  A rather straightforward storyline, dialogue masterfully presented by Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan (and all of the other cast members), and a captivating cinematography.  Highly recommended.

More information about Sutton Hoo at The Smithsonian:
The importance of the Sutton Hoo burial cannot be understated. Not only did the site shed light on life during the early medieval Anglo-Saxon period (roughly 410 to 1066) but it also prompted historians to revise their thinking about the Dark Ages, the era that followed the Roman Empire’s departure from the British Isles in the early fifth century. Contrary to long-held beliefs that the period was devoid of the arts or cultural richness, the Sutton Hoo artifacts reflected a vibrant, worldly society.

As the archaeologists dug deeper, they found themselves stunned by the scale, quality and sheer diversity of the trove. Among the artifacts unearthed were fine feasting vessels, deluxe hanging bowls, silverware from Byzantium, luxurious textiles and gold dress accessories set with Sri Lankan garnets.

The grave’s burial chamber was laden with weapons and high-quality military equipment. A shield found inside is believed to have been a diplomatic gift from Scandinavia; shoulder clasps appear to be modeled on those worn by Roman emperors, suggesting the armor’s owner drew from different cultures and power bases to assert his own authority.

The artifacts also included a belt buckle with a triple-lock mechanism, its surface adorned with semi-abstract imagery featuring snakes slithering beneath each other. Brown found gold coins that had been minted in the Aquitaine region of France with an ornate lid adorned in reddish garnet. The purse’s cover is now considered one of the finest examples of cloisonn√©, a style in which stones are held by gold strips.

Though metal items survived in Suffolk’s acidic soil better than organic objects like fabric and wood, the team did find a number of unexpected artifacts, including a well-preserved yellow ladybug.
The movie's emphasis is properly on the people and the process, not the artifacts per se, which can be read about and viewed at a variety of websites.

The BBC has a brief video with segments from their 1965 documentary, including film and audio of Basil Brown.

And finally here is a detailed and eloquently narrated video on the iconic Sutton Hoo helmet:


  1. Just watched this the other night - really interesting.

  2. I loved the Curators Corner, and I can't wait to see the movie!!!

  3. We enjoyed it very much; I would have liked to see more of the treasure unearthed, in the movie.

  4. It's a really great film. Ralph Feinnes Suffolk accent is really good too.

    The Sutton Hoo treasures are in the British Museum even now, and if you're ever close enough, you really should try to take a visit. I go frequently times I'm in London... Never fails to leave me breathless.

  5. Kenju - The treasured took decades to put together. If I recall the helm wasn't completely reassembled until the 1970s.


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