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Did you know that before England became one country, it was made up of several Kingdoms, each with their own leader?

The King of East Anglia was a rich and powerful man – and when he died in the early 600s, only a very special burial would be good enough.

The people then believed that the dead would travel to an afterlife. The poor might have a few coins for the ferryman to the next world; a rich man might be buried with a horse to ride there. But the King had to be buried in a ship to sail to the next world!

He was surrounded by fabulous treasures – silver tableware from the Middle East, fabulous gold jewellery, and his amazing helmet, sword, sceptre, shield and chain-mail. These items were buried with the King so that his great importance would be clear to whoever his Court thought might encounter him after his funeral!

There were many coins to pay the oarsman who would row the ship, cauldrons which might have contained food for his journey and drinking horns from animals that are now extinct!

All this was excavated in the 1940s – the film ‘The Dig’ is all about it – and the treasures are now to be seen in the British Museum.

The finds raise as many questions as they answer. How did such precious metals and jewels come from so far away to Britain? Why is the burial so similar to those across the sea in Scandinavia? Were the ‘Dark Ages’ as uncivilised as has been thought?

Join my tour of the British Museum to discover these treasures, which were hidden away for more than a thousand years!