Ghosts, gold, and weapons: Film on true story of Sutton Hoo intrigues

Scene from 'The Dig' Netflix film

Very few films entice me to sit through them, but a film based on an archaeological dig is due out January 29, and I plan to watch it. Netflix will premiere the story of Sutton Hoo. The film is based on a novel and the book is based on a true story. I have a self-interest in this film.

Some of my ancestors on my mother’s side would’ve been part of the culture represented by artifacts unearthed at Sutton Hoo.

There are a number of interesting angles in the back story to the film The Dig. Landowner Edith Pretty’s private initiative led to the findings on her more than 500-acre estate in Suffolk (in East Anglia). Pretty’s personal story is also incredibly interesting—she became a mother at 46.

Reports of ghost sightings near mounds on Pretty’s property allegedly influenced her decision to start digging in those mounds, but some sources claim those sightings were unproven.

The British Museum sums up background:

“In 1939, Edith Pretty, a landowner at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, asked archaeologist Basil Brown to investigate the largest of several Anglo-Saxon burial mounds on her property. Inside, he made one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of all time.

Beneath the mound was the imprint of a 27m-long (86ft) ship. At its centre was a ruined burial chamber packed with treasures: Byzantine silverware, sumptuous gold jewellery, a lavish feasting set, and, most famously, an ornate iron helmet. Dating to the early AD 600s, this outstanding burial clearly commemorated a leading figure of East Anglia, the local Anglo-Saxon kingdom. It may even have belonged to a king.”

The history of East Anglia has long been of interest to me in part because of ancestors associated with Viking cultures. The finds at Sutton Hoo may suggest Vikings came to East Anglia earlier than we thought.

Digs like Sutton Hoo also suggest something we in the US don’t think about very much. Political and tech influencers categorize Americans by skin color, but that is a false criterion. Regardless of the color of one’s skin, different cultures and ethnic groups were not homogenous. Within cultures in various parts of the world, skin color meant nothing in war and war was common.

I’m hoping the film to be released by Netflix won’t be a snoozer. I plan to watch The Dig on Friday, and I’ll post my thoughts after. John Preston wrote the novel the film is based on, and I plan to read the book too.

~~Featured photo is snipped from Netflix trailer for ‘The Dig’.

(Kay B. Day/January 25, 2021)

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