Sutton Hoo

The Forbidden Archaeologist: A Case of Paranormal Archaeology

On Thursday, November 2, 2017, I arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport, traveled by Underground to the Baker Street station, and then walked to my hotel near Regent’s Park. I was in London to speak at the Origins conference, to be held on Saturday, November 4, at the Rudolf Steiner House. Andrew Collins and Hugh Newman organized it. On Friday morning, I took a walk in Regent’s Park, quietly chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on my meditation beads. Then I went to Govinda’s Restaurant, at the Radha Krishna Temple near Soho Square, for a lunch meeting with some members of the Science and Philosophy Initiative ( We discussed the insights of Vedic thought on scientific research into consciousness and the origin of life and the universe. When I returned to my hotel, I ran into Hugh Newman and Jim Vieira, coauthors of the book Giants on Record. Hugh suggested we all go out for dinner. We went to a nearby sushi place, where I had vegan sushi. Hugh and Jim asked me about evidence for giants. I said that one of the best cases involved the large-sized human bones found in the late nineteenth century at Castelnau, France, by the French anthropologist Georges de Lapouge. (See my column in Atlantis Rising Issue #89.)

Saturday morning I went to Steiner House for the opening of the Origins conference. I said hello to Andrew Collins, whom I last saw a few years ago, when I had been a speaker at another of his London conferences. Hugh Newman joined us and jokingly noted that both he and I were wearing skull t-shirts, while Andrew was not. Hugh was the first speaker. The title of his talk was “The Origins of the Giants in Britain.” He explored the evidence for giants from British folklore, history, and archaeology and suggested these giants had been involved in the erection of the British megalithic monuments. Later, Jim Vieira spoke on “The Lost World of Edgar Cayce,” focusing on Cayce’s ideas about the origins of humanity. Andrew Collins spoke about the archaeological evidence for the Denisovans, a humanlike population that existed in southern Siberia about 40,000 years ago. Genetic studies show them to be distinct from modern Homo sapiens and the Neanderthals. Then it was my turn to speak, on “The Hidden History of the Human Race.”

On Sunday, I went with many conference attendees on a tour of the British Museum, guided by Andrew Collins and Caroline Wise. We saw some intriguing Egyptian and Mesopotamian antiquities. But for me, the most interesting thing was our visit to the Sutton Hoo collection. In recent years, I have become interested in psychic, or spiritual, archaeology—archaeological discoveries that were carried out using paranormal powers of mind. For example, in India, during the sixteenth century, saints of the devotional bhakti sect excavated lost sacred images of deities, such as Krishna, after their locations were revealed to them in dreams or visions. I have presented papers about this spiritual archaeology at mainstream archaeology conferences, including a meeting of the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists held in 2005 at, in a bit of synchronicity, the British Museum. A version of that paper (“Excavating the Eternal”) was later published in Antiquity (March 2008, pp. 178-188), one of the main professional journals of archaeology. The Sutton Hoo discoveries provide a twentieth century European example of the same kind of thing that happened in sixteenth century India.

When I walked into the Sutton Hoo gallery, its most famous artifact, a shining gold helmet, the front of which also includes a haunting gold facemask with cavernous eye sockets, captured my gaze. How was it found? A key personality in the discovery was Edith May Pretty, the wife of Colonel Frank Pretty. They married in 1926 and bought Sutton Hoo House, an Edwardian mansion near Woodbridge in Suffolk. There were several mounds (barrows) on the property. In 1934, after her husband died, Edith became interested in spiritualism, visiting a medium in London. She also began to have strange dreams and visions. Yale University professor, R. Howard Bloch, wrote in his book A Needle in the Right Hand of God (2009, p. 95): “In the summer of 1937, Mrs. Edith A. Pretty, a widow living on her estate in Suffolk, East Anglia, recounted to Vincent Redstone, a local historian and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, her dream of the previous night. She had seen ‘a large white horse with a helmeted rider, then the burial of a man and the flashing of gold objects as they were placed in the grave beside him.’ ” Bloch (p. 95) also stated, “Her nephew came with a dowser’s rod and assured her there was gold buried under the largest barrow.” That was Mound 1.

Redstone arranged for Mrs. Pretty to meet with him and Guy Maynard, curator of the Ipswich Corporation Museum. They decided they should get Basil Brown, a local amateur archaeologist, to excavate the mounds. Brown took up residence at Sutton Hoo and began work, assisted by two farm workers. There were 18 mounds on the property. At Mrs. Pretty’s suggestion, Basil Brown began excavating Mound 1 but found nothing significant. He moved on to other mounds. Mrs. Pretty then insisted that he go back to Mound 1. Basil Brown’s further excavations revealed that a Viking-type ship was buried there.

A team of professional academic archaeologists replaced Basil Brown. On July 21, 1939, the new team found their first gold object, a piece of jewelry. Many other gold and silver objects, including the famous helmet and facemask, soon followed. It was obviously the burial of an elite person. But no skeleton was found. An inquest granted possession of the Sutton Hoo treasures to Mrs. Pretty, who soon thereafter donated them to the British Museum. Within a few days, World War II began; and for safekeeping, the Sutton Hoo treasures were buried in an old Underground tunnel in London. After the war, they were placed on permanent display in the British Museum.

Who was buried in the mound? Bloch (p. 103) stated, “Sutton Hoo was in all likelihood the burial mound of King Raedwald, the first of the East Anglian kings to be converted to Christianity. Raedwald lapsed back into pagan ways, however, before his death in 624 or 625, as attested to by the presence of only cremated remains in the place of his body, by the abundance of objects interred with him, and by the placement of the mound outside the sanctified ground of a church, all contrary to Christian burial rites.”

Of course, modern archaeologists downplay the role of Mrs. Pretty’s dreams and visions in the discovery. One of these archaeologists was Martin Carver, who conducted excavations at Sutton Hoo from 1983 to 1992. In his book Sutton Hoo: Burial Ground of Kings? (1998, p. 4), Carver said with a touch of sarcasm that “whatever her sensitivity to the attentions of solicitous phantoms, Mrs. Pretty was no stranger to scientific archaeology.” He pointed out that her father had conducted a private excavation near the family home in Cheshire. For me, the fact that Mrs. Pretty was familiar with archaeology does not diminish the importance of her dreams and visions in the Sutton Hoo discoveries. And deep down inside, Martin Carver may have felt the same. When he was editor of Antiquity, Carver heard me present a paper about the cases of supernaturally inspired archaeological discoveries made by saints in sixteenth century India, and he personally asked me to submit the paper for publication in his journal. He told me, “I want this for Antiquity.”

From the Sutton Hoo collection in the British Museum, Andrew Collins took us to a display of objects connected with John Dee (1527-1609), a mathematician and occult philosopher who served as the court astrologer and advisor of Queen Elizabeth I. Among the objects on display was an Aztec obsidian mirror that Dee used to contact angels and other such entities. The black mirror has a label with an inscription written by Horace Walpole: “The Black Stone into which Dr. Dee used to call his Spirits.” Also on display was a small crystal ball used by Dee for similar purposes. Later, I was surprised to see in Bloch’s book (p. 97) that John Dee had once come to Sutton Hoo, while searching for treasure at the request of Queen Elizabeth I.

After the British Museum tour, I went by car with Hugh Newman to his house near Stonehenge. It’s one of the old caretakers’ cottages. The next day we went to see Stonehenge. The last time I had been to Stonehenge was a few years previously when I had been a speaker at Hugh’s Megalithomania conference in nearby Glastonbury. At that time, we had permission to wander directly among the stones. This time we were restricted to the visitors’ path outside the monumental stone circle, which nevertheless inspired wonder in me. That evening, we had dinner at the Stonehenge Inn in Durrington, Salisbury. I had a vegetarian version of an English pub classic: bangers (sausage) and mash (mashed potatoes), with gravy and peas. Next morning it was back to Heathrow and my flight home to L.A.


Michael A. Cremo is the author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic, Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of Human Race. He has also written Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory. Visit

By Michael A. Cremo •