Accessibility statement

The Age of Sutton Hoo

Module leader: Prof Martin Carver


The Age of Sutton Hoo is the 6th to 8th century in north-west Europe. A bit obscure? Not in the least. This is the period that gave us the Europe we have today. It was a melting pot of ideas, a forum of fundamental debate, a time of vigorous political, economic and religious experiment. It is where tribe met state, where barter met coinage and where paganism met Christianity.  In the 2000 years that separates Caesar’s invasion of Britain from the creation of European Common Market, these three centuries are virtually the only period when Europeans were free from an overarching ideology.  Communities could express their own ideas without infringing orthodoxies.  This is why it had such an astonishing diversity of monuments. In this course we will learn to speak the language of monuments and so become party to the debates that underpin the agenda of modern Europe.

The lectures are for team-building, posing the questions and explain why they are worth answering. The seminars answer the questions and the course aims to mould the participants on the course into a research group. Our raw materials are burials, votive deposits, sculpture, cult sites (including monasteries), command sites (including palaces and hillforts), and extravagant gold objects.  We shall deconstruct the thinking of the period by taking certain famous sites apart – not excluding Sutton Hoo.

For further details of how seminar presentations work, please see here.

There will be two excursions: Sutton Hoo on 31 October and Bede's World on 7 November.   

Age of Sutton Hoo (PDF , 263kb) 

Martin Carver was Professor of Archaeology at York from 1986 to 2007. He has excavated or led early medieval field projects at Sutton Hoo, Portmahomack, Durham, York, Worcester, and in France, Italy and Algeria.


  • To understand how to interpret sites and what monuments mean
  • To study some of the greatest art produced in Britain
  • To draw up a set of factors that governed Europe in its formative period, and to some extent still do.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate a broad and comparative knowledge of the archaeology of Early Medieval Northern Europe and its context
  • demonstrate a critical awareness of how archaeological research in protohistoric periods is designed and interpreted
  • critically discuss and assess the key theories, methods and debates, and their limitations
  • communicate an in-depth, logical and structured argument, supported by archaeological evidence
  • Evaluate and contextualise different types of archaeological source material
  • Critically appraise other people’s studies and produce logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence

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