On our recent holiday in Suffolk, we visited Sutton Hoo. We had last been there perhaps 30 years ago. Then we had wandered, with our children, through fields (of maize, I think) until we came upon an archeological dig. From here, presently, the archeologist in charge had emerged and given a lecture on the site which was so erudite and elegant that when he drew his remarks to a close, and invited questions, we were so overwhelmed by his eloquence that nobody could gather their thoughts together fast enough to construct an adequate response. Way down the line a woman whom I had noticed was rather restless raised her hand. “What happened to Mrs Pretty?’ she demanded. Edith Pretty was the owner after the death of her husband and she was entitled to whatever honour she may have wished as she gifted this magnificent find to the nation and asked for nothing in return.

This time there was a proper car park, and an attractive visitor centre and cafe, museum shop etc.   It  was (for me) a longish walk through marshy, hilly ground and then you arrive at the burial site.

It is said that Mrs Pretty consulted her deceased husband in a spiritualist session and he had advised her to examine the largest. You did not really require the advice. It was by far the largest mound. The team pressed on, hoping to discover the magnificent treasure which we now know to have been there.

The boat was HUGE. It had been hauled up from the river quite a distance. It had been built of wood and was clinker built. The boat would have held approximately 80 oarsmen and was steered by the helmsman in the rear with a deep rudder.  They reckoned it had been to sea. It was a lovely object.

And then there were copies of the treasures found within the burial. Of the body, nothing remained. There was a beautiful sword with a jewelled scabbard, arm bracelets with enamel and gold. And the glorious helmet. A horse’s skeleton was also recognisable and its precious metal harness from

In the past I have looked with disapproval at cultures who bury grave goods with the deceased. These products were of tremendous value- a king’s ransom indeed. I used to think sniffily that they must have had poor people or those who were ill or injured and needed support and who could have benefited from the sale of these goods, Just letting my thoughts flow where they will, I suddenly realised that these people genuinely believed in the Afterlife, and therefore it made sense to go into the underworld prepared.

We have an ambivalent attitude to life after death. To any of you who still genuinely believe in Christianity’s legend of the afterlife, I have no wish to offend. I admire your faith and hope you may be right. But mostly we do not, in our secret hearts believe it. We have allowed science to seduce us. We don our blacks and we attend the rituals of burial. We say Amen to the prayers for the soul of the deceased. We find the ancient words a comfort, and we are happy to conform to the burial customs. But for us it is like a piece of theatre. In the main, we do not believe.

About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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