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Why was Ancient Middle Eastern Bitumen Discovered in an Anglo-Saxon Boat Burial at Sutton Hoo, England?

Thursday, December 1, 2016 8:02
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Why was Ancient Middle Eastern Bitumen Discovered in an Anglo-Saxon Boat Burial at Sutton Hoo, England?

Sutton Hoo in East Anglia is one of the most important archaeological sites in England. The weapons, clothing and other objects buried in the Anglo-Saxon cemeteries show that trade networks in the 6th and 7th century reached as far away as Europe and Asia. Now new research conducted at the British Museum and University of Aberdeen reveals that trading even resulted in a solid form of oil known as bitumen making its way all the way to England from what is now Syria.

The graves at Sutton Hoo vary in size but one of them contains the “phantom” of a boat – the outline remains of a vessel probably used to ceremonially bury a warrior and many of his worldly goods, including his famous helmet. Alongside the body were found several small, centimetre-sized lumps of tar.

1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo burial ship.

1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo burial ship. (public domain)

After spending a nation’s lifetime in British soil, these lumps have spent a human lifetime in the British Museum, where they have been safely curated for 70 years. Our research team, led by the museum’s Rebecca Stacey along with Pauline Burger, retrieved the lumps of tar from the archives and began analysing them.

www.Ancient-Origins.net – Reconstructing the story of humanity’s past

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