Sutton Hoo: 7th-century ship burial mound holds a rare ‘tar’ material find

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A 2016 study found that a black carbon-based material found aboard the luxurious, 7th-century ship, buried at a site called Sutton Hoo in England, is bitumen – an organic, petroleum-based asphalt that is found only in the Middle East.

The Anglo-Saxon ship buried in honor of a 7th-century monarch carried the rare, tar-like material. The ship’s burial mound, along with other burial mounds, were found approximately 80 years ago near the Deben river in today’s Great Britain.

The study which indicated the discovery provided further evidence of important artifacts being transported over long distances in early medieval periods before ending at the burial site.

However, at Sutton Hoo, this Middle East bitumen product wasn’t the only proof of contact with the civilizations of many places- silverware from the Eastern Mediterranean, some Middle Eastern textile, and an Egyptian bowl were also found on the boat.

However, it’s quite unlikely that the Anglo-Saxon vessel discovered at Sutton Hoo ever sailed the waters of the Red Sea. Probably, the valuable items changed hands many times before reaching the shores of Eastern England, back then known as East Anglia.

At the time, this transnational association was most likely one of exchange, with items bartered or accepted as diplomatic endowments between high-ranking leaders or rulers, perhaps passing through many hands before arriving in the East Anglian Kingdom.

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