“The Age of Sutton Hoo” by M. O. H. Carver (Boydell & Brewer, 2008)

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In 1938 an excavation was made at Sutton Hoo by the Ipswich Museum after years of rumors of “untold gold” being buried within the area.  The site was found to be that of a ship burial, possibly for an East Anglian king known as Redwald.  A veritable treasure hoard was found of decayed weaponry, armor, and a variety of everyday use items, as was the procedure when burying a person of stature in the early Middle Ages.  Most of these items are now kept in the British Museum, the two most famous of which are a large solid gold Celtic knot work belt buckle and the reconstructed warrior’s helmet.

In this new collection of articles from Boydell & Brewer, edited by Martin Carver; new insights are presented about the Sutton Hoo ship burial and the artifacts that were discovered there.  But The Age of Sutton Hoo goes much further than a dry and simple book on the burial site, presenting fascinating articles on the specific period in which the burial took place, what the nation of England was like at that time, as well as Pictland (then Scotland), and Europe.  Articles into the development of Old English, the Anglo-Saxon language reveal insights into how language varied between England and Europe.  Numerous articles document the undeniable similarities between Sutton Hoo and the tale of Beowulf, which, coupled together, help to create a more complete and detailed story of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries of medieval Europe.

One does not need a history degree to understand the articles of The Age of Sutton Hoo, which are presented in a clear and concise tone, keeping the reader interested from page to page.  The book is a must for any fan of Sutton Hoo, as well as anyone interested in this crucial period of history when Europe was recreating and redefining itself as a continent.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on May 10th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

01/28 On the Bookshelf . . .


Today I received a copy of Elves in Anglo-Saxon England by Alaric Hall.  I know, I know.  This is not your usual book to exist, let alone want a copy of.  But it does not assume by any means that elves were alive and well in Anglo-Saxon times, but explores the meaning and reason for the concept of elves existing, more as a pre-Christian concept, as well as comparing it medieval Irish and Scandinavian sources .  Plus, the author’s name — Alaric — is wonderfully medieval in its own right.

So, thank you to Boydell & Brewer for sending a copy and I look forward to reviewing it.

Medieval history is one of my passions (I’m even writing a book within this period!) and so every once in a while I’ll review a very unusual book on this period.  The last one that I can bring to memory is The Age of Sutton Hoo (from the same publisher), though I have reviewed a number of medieval history and nonfiction books in the past, including: Vikings, Saxons, and Celts, God’s Crucible, Mysteries of the Middle Ages, Barbarians to Angels, and The Inheritance of Rome.