Sutton Hoo sceptre

From my roving reporter:

Replica of King Raedwald’s sceptre unveiled [Link includes pics]

IT is one of Britain’s most iconic archaeological sites and a new project has helped complete another piece of the Sutton Hoo puzzle.

The ancient Anglo-Saxon burial ground was uncovered in 1939 and to mark the 70th anniversary a Suffolk craftsman was commissioned to create an exact replica of the sceptre, one of a range of stunning artefacts found at the site.

The sceptre has been described by British Museum staff as “unique, and one of the most extraordinary objects made in the earl Anglo-Saxon period”.

Although not as famous as the shield and helmet discovered at the site, and not made of gold, such as the treasures recently discovered as part of the Staffordshire hoard, the sceptre is still of exceptional workmanship.

Suffolk stonemason and sculptor Brian Ansell was challenged by the National Trust back in February to carve a replica of the sceptre.

Mr Ansell used basic tools and traditional methods to create the sceptre, and said he had learned a lot about how it had been crafted.

Mr Ansell said: “We have gained insights into the mind of the original carver and his patron. The quality of work is extremely accomplished and during the process I have learned to respect my fellow mason who carved the original, over 1,000 years ago.

“I have used a basic kit of masonry tools to complete the task in hand, including a handful of fine carving chisels for the more delicate work.

“It’s a tool kit that would have been used by the Romans and therefore fairly authentic to what would have been used to make the original sceptre.”

The sceptre is seen as an emblem of power – a fitting tribute to Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald, who is thought to have been buried at the site

It was formally handed back to “King Raedwald” yesterday and he then presented it to the National Trust. It now takes pride of place in the burial chamber recreation at the Sutton Hoo Visitor Centre.

Jonathon White, property manager at Sutton Hoo, said the project, funded by the Sutton Hoo Society, had helped to shed light on how skilled Anglo-Saxon craftsmen were.

He said: “For years we had a very poor quality replica made of resin and we have taken that out now and replaced it with this very accurate replica and it looks like a real ceremonial piece – it looks fit for a king.

“We have found out through the making of it that it was perhaps produced by a stonemason who was schooled in Roman techniques and knew what he was doing.”

Further reading:

Cohen, S. L., 1966, ‘The Sutton Hoo Whetstone’, Speculum 41

Enright, M.J., 2006, The Sutton Hoo Sceptre and the Roots of Celtic Kingship Theory

Enright, M.J., 1982, ‘The Sutton Hoo whetstone sceptre: a study in iconography and cultural milieu’, Anglo Saxon England 11 : 119-134

Evison, V. I. 1975, ‘Pagan Saxon Whetstones.’ Antiquaries Journal 55 : 70–85
Simpson, J., 1979, ‘The King’s Whetstone’ Antiquity 53 : 96-101

Llanbedr whetstoneLlanbedr-goch, Ynys Môn, another large early medieval whetstone. It is 267mm in length (about half the size of Sutton Hoo), of fine grain sandstone of square section, tapered at the lower end. Little used as a whetstone, Dr Mark Redknap has interpreted it as a symbol of rank, reminiscent of the sceptre whetstone from Sutton Hoo. Some whetstones had a more symbolic significance than being merely functional objects.

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