1200-Year-Old Anglo-Saxon Canoe Raised From The Depths

By David Prudames | 26 November 2002
the canoe was lifted onto the back of a truck and driven 12 miles to where it will be carefully conserved.

Left: the canoe was lifted onto the back of a truck and driven 12 miles to where it will be carefully conserved.

An Anglo-Saxon dug-out canoe has been raised for conservation from its 1200-year-old North Sea berth in Suffolk.

A team of seven marine archaeologists from Deep Sea Explorations carefully raised the canoe from a lagoon at Dingle Marshes, Suffolk where it has been stored under water since its discovery in 1998.

Originally found by a fisherman off the East Anglian coast near Southwold, the 16-foot canoe has been dated to between 775 and 892 AD.

"The importance is the fact that the canoe is virtually the only one of this age that has been recovered out of the sea," explained Stuart Bacon, the marine archaeologist who organised the operation.

"In fact, it is the only timber that has come out of the North Sea of that age, so that makes it rather exclusive."

The hollowed-out canoe is uncommon in that it was found as a largely whole, solid object rather than as the usual well-preserved outline in the ground and, as Stuart Bacon pointed out, the emphasis is now very much on conservation.

discovered in the area known as the Sandlings, the canoe joins the ancient burial boats of Sutton and Snape as Suffolk treasures.

Right: discovered in the area known as the Sandlings, the canoe joins the ancient burial boats of Sutton and Snape as Suffolk treasures.

"It has to be conserved, we must get the conservation right," he said. "The canoe will almost certainly go on display and we've had tremendous interest from all quarters."

Transferred to a ten by three metre storage tank at the Deep Sea Explorations laboratory at Bentwaters, Suffolk the artefact will undergo what is expected to be six years and £20,000 worth of conservation work.

"I am very pleased that it has been saved and conserved, because there is no easy way of dealing with those kind of finds," added Keith Wade, Archaeological Service Manager for Suffolk County Council.

"It is an important find and in this part of the world we are increasingly presenting the Anglo-Saxons, so it is something that would fit in pretty well with what we have got already. I just hope that it is going to be available for a wider audience."

The canoe was most likely used as inland transport around what was at the time an area of broads, but has now gradually been reclaimed by the sea.

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