Artefacts of the Afterlife

I recently visited the Tutankhamun Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh. It was a beautifully curated exhibition. I was astounded to see that wooden objects survived from 3345 years ago in fantastic condition. I couldn’t help thinking about the Sutton Hoo treasures from Suffolk and how it was that the wood of that burial dissolved in the acid soil, leaving just the imprint of an Anglo-Saxon ship.

The Sutton Hoo burial, likely to be that of King Raedwald is dated circa 625. It is much later than Tutankhamun’s tomb, and in a completely different part of the world. However, what they both do share is the array of grave goods that a high-status individual had to accompany them through into the afterlife.

Below are photographs of the a fraction of the material evidence that exists from both tombs (the Sutton Hoo objects are replicas). These beautiful objects have their own universal language – as humans we can still experience them as aesthetically pleasing and precious.

Whilst Sutton Hoo and Tutankhamun are nearly 2000 years apart, there are curious similarities.

I would definitely recommend the Tutankhamun exhibition as well as visiting the British Museum to see the Sutton Hoo artefacts.

Figure 2: King as hunter.


Figure 3: Sutton Hoo Helmet. High-status warrior king.

Figure 4: Tutankhamun’s Crook & Flail.

Figure 5: Sign for Crook & Flail – symbols of kingship.


Figure 6: Tutankhamun Chest detail.


Figure 7: Metal panel from Sutton Hoo helmet.


Figure 8: Beaten metal from Tutankhamen tomb.

Figure 9: Eagle on Sutton Hoo shield.

Figure 10: Sutton Hoo Shield

Figure 11: Tutankhamun Scarab Necklace.


Figure 12: Detail of the Scarab Necklace.

Figure 13: Shoulder Clasp – gold and garnets from Sutton Hoo.