Sutton Hoo Dig Site
Source: Netflix

'The Dig' Has Renewed Public Interest in a Treasure Discovered Decades Ago

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Feb. 2 2021, Published 2:15 p.m. ET

As children, most people fantasize about discovering a treasure in their own backyard. For Edith Pretty, that treasure became a reality. Edith's life is a huge part of The Dig, a new movie out on Netflix which tells the story of the discovery of the Sutton Hoo treasure, which was unearthed on Edith's property in Suffolk, England in the 1930s. Now that her story is more widely known, some are wondering exactly how much the treasure is worth. 

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What is the Sutton Hoo treasure?

If you're only familiar with the Sutton Hoo treasure because of The Dig, or if you haven't seen the movie yet, you might be wondering about exactly what's in the Sutton Hoo treasure. The treasure is Anglo-Saxon and dates back to the sixth and seventh centuries. The biggest find, which is depicted in The Dig, comes from a ship burial that contained a wealth of undisturbed artifacts, including a belt buckle and a helmet. 

sutton hoo treasure value
Source: Netflix
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These artifacts wound up at the British Museum, and were donated as a gift by Edith after they were discovered. There were also subsequent excavations of the land which turned up more artifacts. Those artifacts were given to the Ipswich Museum, where they are still stored today. The balance of the treasure remains in the British Museum.

What is the value of the Sutton Hoo treasure today?

The exact value of the Sutton Hoo treasure isn't widely known, in part because the items in the treasure have never been up for sale. They were donated to the British Museum by Edith, and have remained there ever since. Typically, the items are described as "priceless," suggesting that their value to the museum and as historical artifacts makes them incredibly valuable.  

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Given their historical significance, it's easy to imagine that the value of the items in the treasure would be valued in tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Edith's donation of the treasure was, at the time, described as the single largest donation in the history of the museum by a living donor. That alone suggests that the items were immensely valuable, and as The Dig suggests, the British Museum was very interested in acquiring them. 

Source: YouTube
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'The Dig' has ignited a new interest in the Sutton Hoo treasure.

Although the story of Sutton Hoo is not new, it's likely new to many people because of The Dig, which stars Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, the excavator she hired to begin digging into the mounds of dirt on her property. Although the film offers some level of detail on Sutton Hoo, it also tells a broader story about what the U.K. was like on the eve of World War II. 

The film has received generally favorable reviews, and, like other Netflix properties before it, it has also created a new level of interest in its subject matter. Sutton Hoo is priceless not just because of the amazing beauty of the artifacts, but because of what they signify about the Anglo-Saxon people. They weren't the savages some believed them to be, and The Dig articulates that reality perfectly. 

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