Archaeologist identifies ‘repair’ made to Sutton Hoo ship exposing twist to famous story

The Dig: Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes star in Netflix trailer

Netflix has released its new film ‘The Dig’ depicting the extraordinary story of the breakthrough made in Woodbridge, Suffolk, before World War 2. Archaeologist Basil Brown uncovered two early Medieval cemeteries on the property of Edith Pretty that dated from the sixth to the seventh centuries. Inside one was an undisturbed ship burial.

Sutton Hoo lies along the banks of the tidal estuary of the River Deben and formed a path of entry into East Anglia during the period that followed the end of Roman imperial rule.

This has led some scholars to speculate that the ship was more than just a funeral object, and was used to transport whoever was buried inside to their final resting spot.

And Curator of Early Medieval Europe Collections at the British Museum, Dr Sue Brunning, revealed how this theory was given a boost.

She told Express.co.uk: “One of the queries around the burial is how the ship got there.

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“Close by to Sutton Hoo is the River Deben. It is thought that the boat would have been able to sail up and down that river and I think that is very likely.

“We can see thanks to Basil Brown’s really careful excavation of the imprint of the ship that it was repaired at some point.

“There’s an area where there seems to have been some material added in order to sure-up a hole or something like that.

“So we are able to see that the ship was used. It had a function, but we don’t know if it was capable of sailing on the sea.”

Dr Brunning revealed how this observation has divided archaeologists but, if true, could reveal new insight on the story.

She added: “Some people think it was, some don’t. The problem is the burial chamber was put at the middle of the ship where a mast or a sail would have been.

“So any signs had been removed, it depends on who you ask. But it seems to have been perfectly capable of going up the river.

“The damage could have come about by hitting something under the surface of the water. It’s difficult to say.

“We can see that it did sustain some damage during its journey, though.”

The new Netflix release is directed by Simon Stone and available to stream now.

The cast is led by Carey Mulligan, an Oscar nominee who plays Mrs Pretty – the wealthy landowner who first sparked interest in the mounds near her home.

Ralph Fiennes takes on the role of Mr Brown – a self-taught archaeologist who has to fight to continue work on excavating the ship he found.

In a previous interview with Express.co.uk, Dr Brunning revealed how impressed she was with the production.

She stated: “Basil Brown inspired me at university to study this particular period, he’s an important person in my mind and it was really nice to see Ralph Fiennes’ interpretation.

“He got pretty close to what Basil Brown was like in my mind – based on what I’ve seen in his writings, his voice, and his attitude

“He really brought that to life. There is one particular moment where he goes and smokes his pipe during a break by the river.

“He sees a boat sailing past and there’s this moment where you can see he is imagining how the ship he has found would have sailed in that same water.

“It really nailed what Basil Brown would have been like. I think they did a lovely job.”

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