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Silver bowls and spoons from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo

500/650

British Museum

British Museum

The Sutton Hoo ship burial contains the largest quantity of silver ever discovered in a grave. The silver items were all made in East Mediterranean workshops and may have come to East Anglia as a gift, probably via the Frankish kingdom. Possession of the silver, and its use, probably in a great hall, was a way of declaring wealth and status.

The shallow bowls are part of a set of 10 that were probably used as tableware. Each is decorated with an equal-armed cross springing from a central roundel containing a floral motif. The arms of the cross are filled with patterns initially marked with a set of dividers. The spoons have deep, pear-shaped bowls and long handles inscribed in Greek with two names, Paulos and the other one is possibly Saulos. Both the bowls and spoons are a common type and can be compared to similar examples in the Carthage and Lampsacus treasure

The spoons, with their apparent reference to the conversion of St Paul, have been described as a Christian element in this pagan burial. However it has also been suggested that the name Saulos is an engraver's mistake for Paulos and that, as the bowls are not specifically Christian, the significance of this group as signifiers of Christianity have been overstated.

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Details

  • Title: Silver bowls and spoons from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo
  • Date Created: 500/650
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 23.30cm; Depth: 5.10cm (incl. projection of central stud); Weight: 282.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: incised; punched; stamped; chased
  • Subject: cross; planet/constellation; flower
  • Registration number: 1939,1010.79
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Sutton Hoo
  • Period/culture: Early Byzantine; Eastern Mediterranean
  • Material: silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Pretty, Edith M

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