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Room 2: Highlights from the world of Sutton Hoo, AD 300–1100 

Object details

Length: 7.3 cm
Width: 2.5 cm

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

Gift of Mrs E.M. Pretty

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Buckle from a sword belt, from the Sutton Hoo ship burial

Anglo-Saxon, early 7th century AD
From Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England

This buckle fastened the belt from which the sword hung. It was found crushed beneath the sword, and is the only gold object in the Sutton Hoo burial that is damaged.

The buckle has a small oval loop, cut-away shoulders and long rectangular front and black plates. The end of the belt ran between these two plates and was held securely by three gold rivets at the end of the buckle, and two hidden rivets in the shoulders. Unlike many modern buckles, the tongue is fixed and the loop moves downwards to insert the belt end. The front of the buckle is decorated with panels of cloisonné garnets that are deliberately set at different levels, as though to emphasize the raised central panel. All the garnets are set over decorated gold foils which reflect light back through the stones, making them sparkle.

The buckle was part of a suite of fine gold and garnet fittings that adorned the sword belt. There were also four rectangular mounts that stiffened the belt, and a T-shaped strap-distributor from which a strap, narrower than the belt, fell to the sword scabbard and scabbard slide.

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G. Williams, Treasures from Sutton Hoo, (London, British Museum Press, 2011)

R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford, The Sutton Hoo ship burial-2, vol. 2: arms, armour and regalia (London, The British Museum Press, 1978)

A.C. Evans, The Sutton Hoo ship burial, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)