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

Object details

Diameter: 22.5 cm (bowls)
Length: 25.5 cm (spoons)
Museum number: M&ME 1939,1010.79-81,88,89

Gift of Mrs E.M. Pretty

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Silver bowls and spoons from the ship burial at Sutton Hoo

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

With gold and cloisonné garnet fittings

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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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)