This post revisits two favourite sites.
When in Orford I usually visit St Bartholomew’s church if only to look at my favourite graffiti – ships scratched on to medieval fabric (they were of course actually scratched on to lime-wash covering the stonework). Above is one ship I have already published and which I notice now seems to be etched on top of an earlier one of a more rectangular profile (previously published blog 2016/10/20).
Below is the faint outline of another with a mast just above the crack.
On the same column but on its other side I also noticed, I think for the first time, two more ships, each difficult to discern. The first seems to be a vessel of shallower draught than the previous two, but also built of presumably over-lapping planks and with a mast.
Very close to that is the one illustrated above in this characteristic palimpsest which might well also contain a smaller ship within the body, as it were, of the main, bowl-shaped ship at the top. Whether any one or more of the five or six vertical lines is/are a mast is unclear. If I go with proper lighting equipment next time, more, if not all, will doubtless be revealed.
Not far from Orford is Sutton Hoo where the presentation of the famous Anglo-Saxon burial site is undergoing major change this year. I have written about this recently and shown the new sculpture based on the dimensions and shape of the ‘royal’ ship as excavated in 1939 (blog 29 April). The sculpture is, I think, now finished: the skeletal steel ‘ship’ has been painted with a sort of veneer to make it look rusted and its setting has been completed with with a polished concrete surround on which is marked out a sinuous path encouraging people to walk right up to the ship:
In its centre, as the photograph shows, is a platform occupying the equivalent of the exact position of the burial chamber in the original ship. It is of course the exact size of the chamber too, though it is a symbol rather than a replica, for the original was of course in wood. The upper surface of the platform consists of polished concrete slabs on which are drawn the contents of the chamber in their ‘original’ positions:
This view is from the centre looking towards the stern. The head of the hypothetical ‘king’ buried in the chamber – no body was found in the excavation – is marked on the right and the other shapes are of objects recovered from the burial chamber. The whole is a neat concept, and if it does not quite work in conveying hard information then it has to be remembered that the whole is a work of art and that its archaeological and historical context will be fully explained in a a brand new exhibition currently being completed alongside for an opening later in the summer.
Of which more anon.