By: Ali Bhatti, Tommy Wolinski, Joe Lee, and Andrew Cho The archaeology behind beowulf
The big picture: Our purpose The archaeological discovery of Sutton Hoo, along with its excavated artifacts, further validate and provide great insight to the fact that the epic poem, Beowulf, is indeed a factual representation of the Viking Age based on specific materials/equipment (helmets, swords, houses) cited in the text. What’s the point? The main goal is to provide an appreciation for the factual significance and historical accuracy of the epic poem, Beowulf. How will this be done? Through visual aid and comparison of actual artifacts excavated at Sutton Hoo versus the descriptions of those artifacts given by the Beowulf poet
The roadmap Our presentation consists of four major components that will try to convey and prove the aforementioned thesis. The Components: 1. PowerPoint Presentation: Provides overall summary of facts and points 2. Research Essay: The essay provides strong support and detail in order to prove the thesis with various scholar and scholarly article citations coupled with a general analysis of the facts. 3. Flash Program: A unique and independently developed Adobe Flash program (where the user will control the character, Beowulf) will provide an esthetically pleasing display of artifacts found at Sutton Hoo along with their relation to the text 4. Sutton Hoo Model: This 3D model of the actual Sutton Hoo sight will aid in the understanding of the actual location and physical nature of the historic site located in Suffolk, England.
What is suttonhoo? Sutton Hoo is a ship burial that was excavated in 1939 near Woodbridge in Suffolk, England. Archaeologists excavated a small mound and discovered: A well-preserved imprint in the sand of an exceptionally large ship, Gold coins and jewelry Silver utensils Weapons and armor of iron and gilt bronze It is also the site of a grave for Raedwald who was: Aseventh century Anglo-Saxon king Leader of the Wuffing dynasty of East Anglia
Sutton Hoo Cont’ This discovery was of outstanding historical and archaeological significance All of the artifacts were retrieved and are now on display at the British Museum in London The first archaeological campaign took place in 1939, however, campaigns in the 1960’s and 1980’s explored the wider site and other surrounding individual mounds The site has become a great tourist attraction
In the start of Beowulf, a vast and lavish burial was described by the poet for the great king, Scyld. This burial parallels the burial that was excavated at Sutton Hoo. As displayed in Beowulf, a ship burial was the final grand event for a prominent person. In this pagan ritual, the status of the deceased person was determined the grandiosity of the ceremony. The importance: When looking at the artistic representation of such a burial, the similarities between the Sutton Hoo site and the burial in Beowulf are very similar—historical accuracy. Various items shown: Shield serves as “tombstone”, swords, helmets, etc. Sutton hoo and beowulf
Helmets: Described in greater detail than any other item of war equipment in the poem Aristocratic (belonging to or characteristic of nobility) importance Two types of helmets in sixth and seventh century based on archaeological findings Type 1: derived from late Roman prototypes Solid crown comb Some form of face and neck protection Found in Swedish graves of Vendel and Valsgarde and Sutton Hoo The Artifacts: Helmets
Type 2: Ribbed or Spangenhelm Eastern origin, introduced in west Europe by Ostrogoths (East Germanic tribe that played a major role in the political events of the late Roman Empire) Conical type adopted by Scandinavians by ninth century Worn by both English and Norman Helmets cont.
The big picture In Beowulf... Poet focuses mainly on quality and features, not much on type, but it is clear that Romanesque is described Chain-mail protection on helmets...”encircled with lordly or noble chains” Helmet that Hrothgar gives Beowulf Describes the comb, wala, that goes around the roof of helmet Wire inlay wounded around roof Expensive technique--reason why poet included this descriptive quality Overall: No features of poetic descriptions are without an archaeological parallel.
The Artifacts: Swords Swords: Poet concentrates on generalized terms of ornament--knowledge of technical terms referenced by poet is hard to fully understand, not much is said about actual archaeological material, but deeper analysis of descriptive statements yields strong archaeological materials and reference Heavy references to light and shade and color contrast, makes it difficult to decipher any origins Reference 1: Poet’s description of the sword Beowulf finds under the mere (lake) “Then he saw among the weapons a victory-blest blade, an ancient giant made sword, mighty of edge, a glory for warriors; it was a weapon of weapons, --but it was greater than any other man could bear into battle, serviceable and splendidly adorned, the work of giants” Beowulf sees the sword as a weapon that could save his life Beowulf only took the hilt of sword because the blade had melted away due to Grendel’s poisonous blood The Hilt/Handle: shows that the sword was a ‘ring sword’ found in Scandinavian graves of seventh century-useful info for dating the poem
Poet must have been basing such an elaborate description based on something he had seen before Whole hilt was overlaid with gold Reference to Genesis 4-7, The Flood Attached to some sort of belt, resembles Snartemo sword Differs from other swords because it was larger than life really, only Beowulf could wield it “The work of giants” Hrothgar’s examination of hilt: Elaboration and details of his description is not seen in any other Old English literature in reference to swords Swords cont.
The Artifacts: Houses Germanic House: Long, rectangular building, usually with a roof supported by rows of internal pillars or external buttresses Common building material was wattle-and-daub and stone-and-earth Sites: Ezinge, Warendorf, Vallhagar Hrothgar’s Palace: Technological improvements in the 9th century lead to a more advanced building with a system of upright and horizontal planks Sites: Visselhovede, KreisRothenburg The English king starts to focus on the construction of a great palace using the new planking system Were the grandest of all buildings in the Germanic world before the Viking age, similar to how Herot is lavishly described in Beowulf Palace was a full-scale secular building: somewhere a person would reside All public festivities and businesses were conducted here
Our model How was it made? The mound was made out of special, air drying packaging foam that is used in chandelier packaging The foam was placed in a mold which was the shape of the hill/excavation site The mound was hot glued to the platform The ship was constructed out of a special kind of modeling Styrofoam The ship was hot glued to the mound and secured with a spray-on glue The mound then covered in texture paint which gave that natural feel to it Finally, sand was added to the ship to make it look like an actual excavation site and the rest of the model was painted with natural, earthy colors
The flash Program Software: Adobe Flash CS4 How was it done? Obtained images from a Sprite Database, an online database providing thousands of 8-bit video game quality images Used basic Flash programming and commands combined with photo editing Our Program: Basic character, Beowulf, has the ability to move up, down, left, right, via directional keys The goal: Essentially, Beowulf has the ability to go to archaeological artifacts and the Sutton Hoo site. Once within a certain radius of an object, (ex. Romanesque helmet), the user can press the spacebar and obtain information describing the artifact and a comparison of it at Sutton Hoo and within the actual poem.
Conclusion Beowulf is a poem that is heavily influenced by the archaeological discovery of Sutton Hoo. It is important to appreciate the historical details and accuracies of the epic poem, especially after understanding Sutton Hoo. To reiterate, we hope that the this presentation, coupled with the Flash Program and the 3D Sutton Hoo model has taught our audience that the various artifacts, such as swords, helmets, and houses, are not simply excavated material put into museums. These artifacts solidify the historical importance and accuracy of Beowulf