A Ritual Landscape Considered

Cosmography & anglo saxon ship burials

Jeremy Taylor & Mark Taylor

In this fresh new study following ten years of research the authors propose that there is evidence of sophisticated geo ritual surveying in the landscape that connects the primary Anglo-Saxon boat burials at Sutton Hoo and Snape with the summer and winter solstices. Corroborated by high precision custom mapping software from an Emeritus Professor in Architecture and supported by independent analysis from the Sohland Observatory and its Section on Archaeoastronomy in Germany read how the movements of the sun become a template for cosmic and royal order. With over 75 illustrations and at around 50,000 words the authors findings explain why the boat burials occurred in the landscape, exactly where they were.

East-West axial alignment is now considered to be one of the features of high status Anglo-Saxon settlements that also included non-architectural features such as wells, crosses, cemeteries and old ritual sites and such monuments were built to influence the way people experienced the landscape and how they were configured served to structure the ways that people understood both space and time.

This study draws on the latest research from across the globe showing that boat burials, tumuli, stone ship settings and ceremonial roads across Europe from 565 BC – 1000 AD were meticulously constructed so as to conform to specific celestial and solar astronomical events.

In myth Odin arranged the periods of daylight and darkness, placing the sun and moon in the heavens and establishment of the solar path. He also transforms into both an eagle and a serpent and the milky way, which has been described as polysemous, resembling both a river when it hugs the horizon or a tree when it extends vertically, attracting serpents and birds in its tree aspect. The two points where the ecliptic, the band of stars that contain the zodiac constellations and the milky way cross are the constellations of Gemini (divine twins helping the sun in transformation at sunrise and sunset) and Scorpio. These symbols of solstice duality involved birds (summer solstice/Gemini) and serpents (winter solstice/Scorpio) and that it was at these heavenly gates, where the milky way and the band of constellations crossed, these crossroads were believed to be where the descent and ascent of souls occurred.

Boat burials were an attempt to align the local elite with the ritual-cosmology of the Scandinavian’s and the boat, which like its masculine counterpart the serpent also stood for regeneration and both symbols are enshrined in the mythic grave goods at Sutton Hoo.

The place below the horizon where the sun disappeared to and rose from - was the underworld and was important in the cosmological sense : being the abode of the gods.

Raedwald, Anglo-Saxon king buried at Sutton Hoo was the binding link between earth and sky, upper and lower worlds. The summer solstice rising sun and winter solstice setting sun symbolically mirrored ideas of kingly rule, order, liminality, transformation, death and renewal. Is this why the ancient solar symbol of the swastika occurs on the grave goods at least four times at both Sutton Hoo and Snape ?