Excavating an Anglo-Saxon Ship Burial

An Anglo-Saxon ship burial is excavated, as happened at Sutton Hoo, where only soil discolouration survived. Grave goods are made using re-cycled materials.


Children find out about the Sutton Hoo ship burials. They practice excavation techniques.

Ship burial lined with sand. 25kg bag of moist sand, Rhino buckets and trowels.

The burial. Toy or made figure 20cms long. Split cane. Hacksaws, sticks, twine, silver foil, clay, fabrics, scissors and card to make a wrapped figure with shield, sword and spear.

Tell the Story of the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial excavations. Show pictures of the Sutton Hoo ship. Discuss excavation techniques.

Gather materials for your ship burial.  Vikings and Angle kings were buried in ships. Some have survived in fragmentary form.

Excavate your ship. This idea is based on the excavations of the Royal Burial Mounds at Sutton Hoo. Here, the wood had rotted away completely, leaving only the ‘ghost’ of the ship outlined in the sandy soil. Children dig out the 3D shape as neatly as they can with trowels.

Line with fresh sand. Pat damp sand over the soil inside the ship to make the shape stand out. Re-make the ribs of the ship, just like at Sutton Hoo.

Prepare the burial. Use a scale figure. Wrap it in fabric and place it in the ship on a bed of hay, dry twigs and moss. Next, gather items of natural treasure – special leaves, nuts, shells, feathers – and place in the ship.

Make a shield, sword, spear and helmet. The shield is made with a 12cm disc of cardboard neatly covered in aluminium foil. Spear and sword are made with split cane. Foil is used to make a spear tip and to cover the sword blade. Place the items in the ship.

Build a mound over the burial. Use trowels or spades to build a mound over the ship.

© Chris Trwoga 2024. All rights reserved. Permission is given to download, save and print this document for personal use only.