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The most significant artefacts from the ship-burial, displayed in the British Museum, are those found in the burial chamber, including a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield and sword, a lyre, and many pieces of silver plate from Byzantium.
The ship-burial has, from the time of its discovery, prompted comparisons with the world described in the heroic Old English poem Beowulf, which is set in southern Sweden.
It was discovered and partially explored in 2000 during preliminary work for the construction of the hall.
This also had burials under mounds, but was not known because these mounds had long since been flattened by agricultural activity.
The ship-burial, probably dating from the early 7th century and excavated in 1939, is one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England for its size and completeness, far-reaching connections, the quality and beauty of its contents, and the profound interest of the burial ritual itself.
The initial excavation was privately sponsored by the landowner.
As the peoples of Western Europe were encouraged by the Empire to maximise the use of land for growing crops, the area around Sutton Hoo suffered degradation and soil loss. Following the withdrawal of the Romans from southern Britain after 410, the remaining population slowly adopted the language, customs and beliefs of the Germanic Angles, Saxons and Jutes.
They dug ditches that marked the surrounding grassland into sections, indicating land ownership.
The best surviving example contained a ring of upright posts, up to 30 millimetres (1.2 in) in diameter, with one pair suggesting an entrance to the south-east.
In the central hearth, a faience bead had been dropped.
Of the two grave fields found at Sutton Hoo, one (the "Sutton Hoo cemetery") had long been known to exist because it consists of a group of approximately 20 earthen burial mounds that rise slightly above the horizon of the hill-spur when viewed from the opposite bank.
The other, called here the "new" burial ground, is situated on a second hill-spur close to the present Exhibition Hall, about 500 m upstream of the first.When the significance of the find became apparent, national experts took over.