Netflix’s “The Dig”: The Gentle, Sweet Story Buries the Dazzling Viking-like Sutton Hoo Artifacts

A reconstruction of the iconic Sutton Hoo helmet, which was unearthed shattered into hundreds of pieces (Shutterstock image)
Trailer courtesy of Netflx

“These people weren’t just marauding barterers. They had culture! They had art! They had money!”

In the film, Cambridge archaeologist Charles Phillips arrives to take over the dig after a ship is uncovered, and the dig then warranted an archeologist more qualified than Brown, a mere excavator without academic credentials. The Phillips character says the discovery of the burial ship “changes everything,’ meaning it upended the then-current understanding of Saxon culture. “These people weren’t just marauding barterers. They had culture! They had art! They had money!” he exclaims.

Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, Gold and Garnet Bracelet photo by profzucker, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The 263 artifacts of the dig included gold and garnet buckles, a sword, a shield, spears, coins, silver cutlery, a chain-mail shirt, a scepter, and a distinctive full-face helmet of a kind never before recovered in Britain.

The Sutton Hoo ship being excavated in 1938. The hull’s wood had disintegrated, but discolorations in the sand and iron rivets indicated the shape and size. Sutterstock image circa 1938–39

Professor/Writer interested in rhetoric, history, culture, and literature

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