Case Study: Geophysical Survey at Garden Field, Sutton Hoo

In March 2016 Suffolk Archaeology undertook a detailed fluxgate gradiometer and magnetic susceptibility meter survey on land currently set aside for sheep pasture at Garden Field, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk …

Garden Field is situated in the grounds of Tranmer House, close to the famous Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo ship burial and immediately to the northwest of the visitors centre. Archaeological fieldwork undertaken over the last thirty years on Garden Field has most significantly recovered remains of a rare imported artefact known as the ‘Bromeswell Bucket’, which is of eastern Mediterranean origin dating from the 6th century and was discovered in the southeastern corner of the field.

Fluxgate gradiometer survey at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

Parts of the field had previously been surveyed by

caesium vapour magnetometer, this phase of prospection was targeted at those areas not previously covered, with the addition of a magnetic susceptibility survey over the whole field. The project was also a trial exercise to determine whether geophysical survey techniques were suitable for visitor participation as a part of the Sutton Hoo experience, therefore the magnetic susceptibility meter survey was partly undertaken by members of the public visiting the National Trust site.

The detailed fluxgate gradiometer survey was successful in recording a range of geophysical anomalies. Positive linear trends indicative of former settlement ditches or field boundaries from at least three separate phases, thermoremanent responses indicative of at least one kiln type anomaly, and a plethora of discrete pit type anomalies were of particular archaeological potential. Two areas of magnetic disturbance and sparse isolated dipolar responses may also be of an archaeological derivation. One broad geological anomaly records the potential remains of a former river channel of the River Deben. A dipolar linear trend delineating a service run and negative linear trends of agricultural origin reveal evidence of modern site activity.

Using the magnetic susceptibility meter at Sutton Hoo

The magnetic susceptibility meter survey revealed that peaks of higher soil magnetisation were predominant in the eastern half of the existing field, these higher readings are more indicative of settlement type activity. Lower readings were recorded in the western half of the field where potential colluvial deposits located on the side of the slope may mask deeper lying areas of cultural enhancement.