The British Museum Opens SUTTON HOO AND EUROPE AD 300-1100 Today
A new display of the British Museum's unparalleled early medieval collections which include the famous Sutton Hoo treasure is scheduled to open in Room 41 today, 27 March 2014 made possible through a generous donation by Sir Paul and Lady Jill Ruddock.
It is the first full refurbishment of the gallery since 1985, involving replacement of the flooring and roof, and renovation of the internal architecture. Marking 75 years since their discovery, the gallery's centrepiece will be the finds from the Sutton Hoo ship burial in Suffolk, one of the most spectacular and important discoveries in British archaeology. Excavated in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, this grave inside a 27m-long ship may have commemorated an Anglo-Saxon king who died in the early AD 600s. It remains the richest intact burial to survive from Europe. Many of its incredible treasures, like the helmet, gold buckle and whetstone have become icons not only of the British Museum, but of the Early Medieval as a whole. The project coincides with the BP exhibition: Vikings: life and legend in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery.
Room 41 tells the story of a formative period in Europe's history. This time of great change witnessed the end of the Western Roman Empire, the evolution of the Byzantine Empire, migrations of people across the Continent and the emergence of Christianity and Islam as major religions. By the end of the period covered in the gallery, the precursors of many modern states had developed. Europe as we know it today was beginning to take shape.
The refurbished gallery gives an overview of the whole period, ranging across Europe and beyond - from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea and from North Africa to Scandinavia. The unique chronological and geographical breadth of the British Museum's Early Medieval collections makes such an approach possible.