CA Letters October 2021

Sutton Hoo ship solutions

We at the Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company have recently read the letter entitled ‘Sutton Hoo Maths’ from Dennis Onions (CA 379) and have written the following response:

Allowance for distortion of the Sutton Hoo Ship during nearly 13 centuries of site formation until the excavation of 1939 has been taken into account as fully possible and is described in Tanner, Whitewright, and Startin (2020) ‘The Digital Reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo Ship’. This formed Phase 1 of the project, which was completed with the publication of the above paper.

The primary data from the original Science Museum Drawings 2012A and B (along with written descriptions of the excavation, the survey of the excavated imprint, and contemporaneous comments in the archaeological press by A S Crossley and R C Anderson) were used, along with data described in Volume 1 of Bruce-Mitford’s The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, to develop a model of the ship using the digital application Rhino 6. From this, a ’Minimum Reconstruction Drawing’ of the ship was developed, and it is this drawing on which we are basing the reconstruction of the ship (see

Image: Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company.

The digital reconstruction allows for the fairness of plank runs to be investigated and adjusted if necessary; missing or misaligned rivets to be correctly inserted based on adjacent nail patterns; potential errors and repairs in the original build to be more fully understood; and other aspects of the ship such as stability, buoyancy, power requirements, and projected speeds under differing conditions to be calculated.

Possibly the most important information gained was that the keel exhibited more rocker (curvature in the side profile) than had previously been allowed for. This was shown by a misalignment between the line of the garboard (i.e. the lowest) plank rivets and the keel at the ends of the waterline when this was digitally superimposed over the rivet line. Earlier drawings have all shown the keel profile to be largely straight, while the digital reconstruction suggests a keel that exhibits an almost continuous curve from midships out towards the ends of the ship.

However, the Minimum Reconstruction Drawing is just that – an archaeological drawing showing accurately the lines of the ship and the minimal construction details exhibited in the excavation. It is now the job of the shipwrights, in wide consultation with experts on medieval ships, timber technology, Anglo-Saxon tools and their usage, and all the other aspects that go to make up an operational ship to build an accurate reconstruction.

We are now progressing well on Phase 2 of the project, the physical reconstruction of the ship (see CA 377), prior to commencing sea trials in 2023 or 2024.

Tim Kirk
Master Shipwright
The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company

Following the thread

The coiled rope tour of Eastbourne in issue 377 (August 2021, ‘Context’) reminded me of such a device in Germany. My son was working in Hanover in the 1990s and used to drop me off at the railway station so I could explore. There, in the bookshop, I knew I would find the Red Thread guide to the city.

It was a small, pocket-sized book; one followed the red line on the pavement and each point of interest was given a number inside a circle, which matched the entry in the book – a mini personal tour.

I mentioned the idea when I came home, but it fell on deaf ears. Thank you for happy memories.

Judy Sims
Norwich, Norfolk

Touching memorial at Gloucester Cathedral

I enjoyed the Sherds column in the September issue (CA 378), especially the lines under ‘Last laugh’. Some 20 years ago, while touring Gloucester Cathedral, I saw a memorial tablet and was so struck by the words that I copied them down: ‘Sacred to the Memory of SARAH MORLEY, Wife of JAMES MORLEY Esqr. of Bombay in the East Indies, and Daughter of Mr. JAMES RICHARDSON, of Newent in this County. Impelled by a tender and conscientious Solicitude to discharge her parental Duties in person she embarked with her young Family when their Health and Education required their removal to England, and having sustained the pains of Child birth at Sea, she died, a few days after that event, on the 25th of May 1784, in the twenty-ninth year of her Age. Of seven Children, the Issue of her Marriage, one Son and three Daughters survived to lament the untimely loss of an invaluable Mother. Her Husband erected this Monument, to testify his grateful and affectionate Remembrance of a Wife whose exemplary Virtues and amiable domestic Qualities endeared her to him beyond all that Language can express.’

I find the sentiments still quite moving as I type the words. Such memorials are not very common in Canada, though now in Ontario (I’m a hundred miles north-west of Toronto) tombstones are frequently engraved with an image reflecting the enthusiasms of the deceased. Two come to mind: one a boat with a name and a man fishing from it, the other the logo and name of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team! I suppose with current technology and a big enough surface of granite you can emboss it with any image you desire.

Patrick Folkes
Ontario, Canada

Sussex ‘cups of sorrow’

In his family biography The Russian Album, Canadian writer and politician Michael Ignatieff records the flight of his aristocratic grandparents from Bolshevik Russia in 1919. A year later, and with the help of Peggy Meadowcroft, their former governess, Count Paul and his wife Natasha settled, with their five children, on a small dairy farm (complete with cows) known as Beauchamps, between Hastings and Battle. They set about building up a milk-delivery business with rounds in the outskirts of Hastings. According to Michael’s father George, who was a boy at the time, the farm became ‘a crazy Russian circus’ as various émigré relatives came to stay. Local farmhands were employed and their faces beam from a photograph in Meadowcroft’s album, reproduced in the book. Could it be that the Marlipins ‘cups of sorrow’ (mentioned in ‘Sussex past and present’ in CA 379) found their way to Sussex in the baggage of these refugees? Maybe they were given to the local workmen as souvenirs or bought at auction when the Ignatieffs emigrated to Canada in 1928. These seem to me as plausible explanations as the guess that they ‘might be linked to the bustling ice trade… through Baltic Wharf, Shoreham’ – and much more exciting.

Nola Turner
Bromley, Greater London

Edible Archaeology

Unable last year to celebrate our 2019 excavation of one of the largest Romano-Celtic temples in England, Caistor Roman Project’s creative volunteers Sue Harman and Margaret Hood (who have appeared in previous issues, CA 345 and CA 356) excelled themselves this year with Sue’s superb cake and Margaret’s exceptional knitted version of the temple. Both used the artist’s impression of the temple drawn by another volunteer, Jenny Press, which featured in the press and in the BBC’s online archaeology series in 2020.

Val Cossey
Caistor Roman Project trustee

CA online

Joe Flatman @joeflatman
Today’s bittersweet task: writing about #SeanMcGrail for a future column in @CurrentArchaeo. Here’s CA 65 (Feb ’79) when @NMMGreenwich were working on displays of #shiparchaeology incl that from #Graveney #Kent. Sean is far right: anyone know who the others here are?

Marc Allum @Marc_Allum
Fascinating to read in the new edition of @CurrentArchaeo that the statue of ‘King Alfred’ from Trinity Church Sq in Southwark is a composite made from a Roman statue, possibly Minerva (bottom half). Fascinating!

Antique Fletcher @AntiqueFletcher
Looking at it now, he does rather have legs to die for!

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