Not currently on display

Department of Coins and Medals 

Object details

Diameter: 10 mm (range)
Museum number: CM 1939,1003.1-42

Gift of Mrs E.M. Pretty

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Gold coins and ingots from the ship burial at Sutton Hoo

Frankish, early 7th century AD
From Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England

Dating a burial

One of the most famous groups of objects in the British Museum is the splendid collection of grave goods from the Anglo-Saxon ship-burial at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. This is the burial of an important warrior, but there is little in the grave to make it clear who was buried there.

The burial can only be dated on the basis of the coins that were found there. There was a purse among the burial goods, which contained 37 gold coins, 3 coin-shaped blanks, and 2 small gold ingots. The presence of the coin-shaped blanks suggests that the number of coins was deliberately rounded up to 40.

The coins cannot be dated closely, but seem to have been deposited at some point between around AD 610 and AD 635. They all come from the kingdom of the Merovingian Franks on the Continent, rather than any English kingdom, although coin production had started in Kent by this time. Sutton Hoo was in the kingdom of East Anglia and the coin dates suggest that it may be the burial of King Raedwald, who died around AD 625.

The coins on display in the British Museum are electrotype copies of the original coins, which are available for study at the Museum.

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S. Marzinzik, The Sutton Hoo Helmet. Object in Focus Series (London, The British Museum Press, 2007)

G. Williams, The circulation and function of gold coinage in conversion-period England, c. AD580-680. In: B.J. Cook and G. Williams (eds.) Coinage and History in the North Sea World c. AD 500-1250: essays in honour of Marion Archibald. The northern world vol. 19 (Leiden, Boston, Brill, 2006) 146-192.