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The Aldi-Saxon prince: Burial treasures found near supermarket go on display | UK News

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Any shoppers in Essex nipping down to their local Aldi found a lot more than eggs and milk back in 2003.

During road works between a pub and the supermarket in Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea, an Anglo-Saxon burial site was discovered – one which experts are calling the UK’s answer to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Now, 16 years on, artefacts from what is thought to be the earliest Christian Anglo-Saxon royal burial site in the UK are going on display.

 A reconstruction drawing of a burial chamber
Image:
A reconstruction drawing of a burial chamber

Experts believe the body preserved in the elaborate grave may belong to Seaxa, brother of Anglo-Saxon King Saebert.

Carbon dating indicated that the male died between 575AD and 605AD.

This ruled out King Saebert, who died in 616AD, but fragments of adult tooth enamel suggested he was over the age of six. The size of the coffin suggested he would have stood about 5ft 8in tall.

Blue and green glass beakers were found whole in the site
Image:
Blue and green glass beakers were found whole in the site

This has prompted historians to turn to the younger brother, with Sophie Jackson, director of research and engagement for Mola (Museum of London Archaeology) saying: “There’s a lot of debate about whether he was a fully-fledged hairy beast Saxon warrior, or younger,” she said. “Had he died before he could really prove himself as he could have been buried with more kit?”

Archaeologists have estimated it would have taken 113 working days to build the chamber, which contained 40 items from around the world and measured 13ft (4m) by 13ft (4m).

“I think it’s our equivalent of Tutankhamun’s tomb,” Ms Jackson said. “It’s getting an intact version of this and seeing how everything is positioned and what he’s got with him.”

Conservator Claire Reed inspecting the remains of a wooden drinking vessel with a decorated gold neck
Image:
Conservator Claire Reed inspecting the remains of a wooden drinking vessel with a decorated gold neck

She added: “I think the thing that’s so strange about it is that it was such an unpromising looking site,” said Ms Jackson. “It’s between a bit of railway and a bit of road, essentially a verge.

“It’s not where you’d expect to find it.”

The treasures found included a lyre (a stringed musical instrument), a 1,400-year-old painted wooden box, and a flagon believed to be from Syria.

The remains of the only surviving example of painted Anglo-Saxon woodwork in Britain
Image:
The remains of the only surviving example of painted Anglo-Saxon woodwork in Britain

It is the first time a lyre has been found still whole and the box is the only surviving example of painted Anglo-Saxon woodwork in Britain.

The site had to be fully excavated because it was vulnerable to potential theft.

Some of the artefacts will go on public display at the Central Museum in Southend on 11 May.

The project was funded by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Historic England.

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