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Full-size reconstruction of the 7th-century Sutton Hoo ship to be created through national fundraising campaign

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A national fundraising campaign is set to “Make Ship Happen” for a £1 million project to build a full-size reconstruction of the 7th century Sutton Hoo ship.

A scheme has been launched to pay for the venture, which will bring together archaeologists, historians, experts in construction and shipbuilding and other skilled volunteers to reconstruct the mysterious ghost ship buried beneath the sand of Sutton Hoo across the River Deben from Woodbridge, Suffolk, for 13 centuries.
 
The first phase of the donation programme will allow people to sponsor one of more than 3,500 numbered metal rivets that will hold the ship together. It is hoped this will raise enough money to contract a master shipwright to oversee the build. Different parts of the ship – the keel, the planks and the stem and stern - will then be offered up for sponsorship to pay for the rest of the build, which is likely to take about two years to complete.

Buried with the king

Philip Leech, chairman and director of the Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company, which is responsible for the build, explained the plans: “Back in 1939 an excavation of Sutton Hoo revealed an early medieval burial ground that included the grave of Raedwald, an Anglo-Saxon king.
“The impression of the rotted-away ship’s timbers in the trench of sand showed the ship to have been a mastless, clinker-built rowboat about 90ft long - an impressive 27 metres.
 
“In the burial site there were 41 items of solid gold now housed in the British Museum, but although the site has been thoroughly examined by historians and archaeologists for the last 90 years, nobody has ever attempted to rebuild the full-size ship to see exactly how it worked before it was buried with the King. This is precisely what we plan to do.
 
“The build is a serious scientific endeavour and an example of experimental archaeology which is carried out by replicating or approximating the feasibility of ancient cultures. This is done by employing a number of methods, techniques, analyses, and approaches, based upon archaeological source material – in this instance raising a ghost ship based on the indent left by the original vessel. Everything will be carefully recorded so we can learn from the construction.”

How to get involved

To sponsor one of the rivets for £20 or buy Make Ship Happen merchandise which helps fund the build visit the project website.
 
 

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