Explore the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial Through These Newly Digitized Photos From the Dig

Workers sift for treasure at Sutton Hoo in 1939.
Workers sift for treasure at Sutton Hoo in 1939. / A. Cook/London Express/Getty Images

In the late 1930s, Edith Pretty enlisted amateur archaeologist Basil Brown to excavate some peculiar mounds on her property in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, UK. What he uncovered was the fossilized frame of an Anglo-Saxon ship that served as the burial site for some unknown medieval VIP. The body had long since deteriorated, but many of the gold treasures, jewels, and other priceless artifacts still remained.

The Sutton Hoo ship burial piqued the interest of archaeologists, historians, and plain old curious people far and wide. Among them was a schoolteacher named Mercie Lack, who was staying at her aunt’s house not far from the dig. According to Suffolk News, Lack asked chief archaeologist Charles Phillips if she and her friend Barbara Wagstaff could visit the site to take some photos. He agreed, and the two recreational photographers spent the better part of August 1939 amassing snapshots of the dig.

Overall, about 60 percent of all photos of the excavation were captured by Wagstaff and Lack. And while the women turned some of the images over to the British Museum, they kept many in their private collections. Now, as Smithsonian reports, all the photos—some 4000 in total—have been digitized and uploaded online for anyone to peruse.

“Mercie Lack’s photographic albums are meticulously annotated with not only who and what we are looking at in the photographs, but often the technical details of how the photographs were taken, such as the type of film and aperture,” Laura Howarth, Sutton Hoo’s archaeology and engagement manager, said in a National Trust press release. “A real labour of love, this information provides an invaluable additional layer of detail to each photograph.”

In addition to photos of the site and many of the artifacts found there, you’ll also get to see some of its most notable visitors, from artist W.P. Robins to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Marie Louise.

Explore it all here.

[h/t Smithsonian]