In early Anglo-Saxon England, belt buckles were a means of expressing wealth and status. The type of metal used and the fineness of the finish were key factors. This spectacular gold buckle from the ship burial at Sutton Hoo indicates that the person buried there was of great importance.
Weighing over 400 grams, the buckle is actually a hollow box that opens from behind on a hinge under a hinge. The locking system, including an intricate system of sliders and internal rods that fit into grooves, allows it to close securely. Similar buckles from the Frankish and Burgundian parts of the continent seem to have contained Christian but we do not know for certain whether the buckle from Sutton Hoo was used for this purpose.
No fewer than thirteen creatures decorate the surface of the buckle. The plate and round tongue plate depict wriggling snakes and intertwining four-legged beasts. Their bodies are highlighted with a piercing ornament filled with black ink. Stylized snakes biting their own bodies slide along the loop, and at the end of the buckle two beasts clutch a small, dog-like creature in their jaws. All this, and the two ferocious bird heads on the shoulders of the buckle, makes this unusual object one of the strongest depictions of early Anglo-Saxon England.