Ship burials are rare in Britain. The closest parallel to Sutton Hoo comes from Snape, only 9 miles away, where a cluster of mounds overlooking the River Alde was thoroughly examined in the 19th century. Although the records are incomplete, it is clear that one mound overlay the remains of a 14m long vessel, the outline of which was preserved by row after row of metal rivets. Spearheads, a glass beaker, and a gold ring were found in the robbed burial chamber. Given the proximity in both location and date, it seems highly likely that the burials at Sutton Hoo and Snape are products of the same tradition.
While British parallels remain scarce, the close links between Sutton Hoo and two cemetery sites in eastern Sweden, at Vendel and ValsgÃ¤rde, were immediately recognised. Excavated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these 6th and 7th century burials contained chieftains laid to rest in boats that were around 9m long and constructed in a similar style to that at Sutton Hoo. ValsgÃ¤rde’s vantage over the River Fyris also evokes the East Anglian cemeteries’ position in the landscape. The nature and decoration of the grave goods is similar too, with strong similarities between a number of the Swedish helmets and shields, and those discovered at Sutton Hoo. However, despite the astonishingly uniform appearance, differences in manufacturing technique hint that the helmet at least was made in Britain. In general the quality of the workmanship in the Swedish burials does not match the high standards encountered in the Sutton Hoo burial. Even so, a direct link between the groups undertaking boat burials in a small corner of Sweden and England appears irresistible.