1400-year-old ‘ghost ship’ set to sail again to England

When an Anglo-Saxon warrior king died 1400 years ago in East Anglia in the United Kingdom, he was placed on a ship and surrounded by treasure. A wooden ship 27.4 meters long, pulled out of the Deben River, was buried inside the mound.

Archaeologists excavating the mound in 1939 unearthed weapons, a warrior’s helmet, and intricate treasures of precious metals and gems, as well as rows of iron rivets.

Edith Pretty, owner of Suffolk property, including the mounds, donated the treasure to the British Museum in London. The burial probably belonged to Redwald of East Anglia, who died in 624 AD.

The ship itself, the wood, rotted in the acidic soil, but the exact position of the boards left an imprint in the sand that resembled the ghostly outline of a ship.

Two photographers, Mercy Lack and Barbara Wagstaff, took pictures of the ship’s “fossil” print in 1939, before the embankment was restored again as World War II loomed.

Now Martin Carver, professor emeritus of archeology at the University of York, and the charity The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company are taking on the monumental task of bringing the ship back to life and recruiting a crew to cross the rivers of England again.

In the town of Woodbridge, not far from Sutton Hoo, they have long dreamed of building a full-scale copy of the famous ship. Of the hundreds of finds from the tomb, almost all of which were originally found disassembled, Carver says the ship is the only item that has not been reconstructed.

After a charity company for the ship was set up in 2016, the team began to develop plans.

Carver, who directed the excavations at Sutton Hoo between 1983 and 1992, is overseeing construction and raising funds for the project. The team hopes to raise £1.5m to build the ship, ferry it across rivers and estuaries and give the ship a permanent home.

There are 70 volunteers involved in the reconstruction project, and the oldest volunteer recently turned 90 years old. Their task is to recreate the ship as accurately as possible using the methods of the Anglo-Saxons themselves, such as using axes to shape the logs. Oaks from East Anglia are used to build the ship.

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