A new research project between the National Trust and Time Team, supported by Historic England, has seen geophysical surveys carried out at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.
When excavations at the site in the 1930s revealed high-status graves, including the princely ship burial, the archaeologists famously used a rather makeshift array of tools to carry out their investigations, augmenting more conventional kit with a kettle, pastry brushes, and bellows borrowed from nearby Tranmer House. The recent work carried out by Time Team and National Trust archaeologists demanded rather more modern methods, however, employing an array of non-invasive techniques to build up a more complete picture of the site.
Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) has been used on the Royal Burial Ground, the first time that some parts of it have been explored in this way; the technique uses radar pulses to image the subsurface, helping to identify features and changes such as voids and ditches. Meanwhile, magnetometry, which measures very small magnetic fields to help detect and map buried remains, has been carried out in the Garden Field adjacent to the High Hall exhibition building – a facility whose construction in the early 2000s revealed an Anglo- Saxon folk cemetery. The magnetometry was done at a scale and high resolution that were not possible before. Time Team is also working with Aerial-Cam to create an interactive and immersive 3D digital model using photogrammetry.
The results will be shared in spring, in a new episode of Time Team that will air on the ‘Time Team Official’ YouTube Channel.
‘These non-invasive techniques paint a subsurface picture of what lies beneath our feet, allowing us to discover, we hope, more about how different people have used this landscape while causing the least amount of damage,’ said Laura Howarth, Archaeology and Engagement Manager at Sutton Hoo. ‘The survey techniques being used here have the potential to detect archaeological features such as field boundaries, building foundations, and ploughed-out burial mounds, but we shall just have to wait and see what is actually discovered.’
We will bring you more coverage of this project, and other recent investigations by Time Team, after their episodes have aired.