https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b00sl6dt Photographs: Samuel McKie (https://sammckiemusic.wordpress.com/author/leverets/)
Anglo-Saxon relics of the Hutton Soo burial act as stark reminders of the Beowulf poem described as fantasy set in imaginary world - this grave ship with its cauldrons and alike invokes a mystery and magic in a daily life. This acts as a symbol of a Celtic history in all of its complex imagery and thought, these objects discovered on the Anglo-Saxon preserved ship. The sea was a mode of communicating and a way of life. My partner has a 3D printing business, and the two of us have been printing such historical objects as things of desire - pictured below are our 3D prints and hand-sprayed and finished replicas of the sutton hoo French coins.
With animal motifs in gilded bronze and silver, the helmet alone is a stark monument of Celtic symbolism and iconography – covered in animal imagery, images of two horses follow down the forehead and the nose, with two boars being both eyebrows – the craftsmanship of this work then interlaces these two powerful symbolic images into being a collective image of a dragon, the boars the wings, and the horses the body in flight. The delicate precision of this is like that of the delicate interlacing of a celtic knot.
The narrator of the podcast describes the artefact as floating “intriguingly in an uncertain realm on the margins of history and imagination.” Seamus Heaney, who wrote one of the most prolific translations of Beowulf , would agree, describing the Sutton Hoo helmet as looking like it arrived out of world of Beowulf and “gleams from the centre of poem, then back into mound.” This to me suggests the idea of it being far beyond our reach in terms of society, and it represents something of magic, mystique, and wonder. A world lost that is now almost like a fable – and even if we do not wilfully wish to lose it, it has found its place in the ground, and is apart of the earth:
“Gleamed out of the earth, gladly disappearing
A farewell to beauty and a farewell to treasure
Left tomb and entered entrancement of readers of poem”
8:30 min Seamus
The helmet and the entire excavation stands to represent more than an artefact, and more a ritual gift like in Beowulf, acting as a history of the sea and the land, moreover than a human history we can connect with personally beyond fable. It is an object of desire and poetry.