Monday, 29 October 2012

Prittlewell: 'The King of Bling'

Southend-on-Sea is the largest town in Essex and Prittlewell is an ancient settlement that has now been swallowed up by it. It became famous in its own right in 2003 when diggers from Museum of London Archaeology found the most important site of the last 70 years, due to a road widening scheme. I gave this weeks talk on the site.

The site had been excavated in the 1920s when the rail and road workers uncovered a Saxon cemetery:
 In this instance what was uncovered was of greater importance than anyone could have thought possible. The remains of an undisturbed tomb from the 7th century AD:
 The tomb was 4m square, the largest found in the UK, and one of the first finds was the copper bowl hanging from its peg (the top right hand of this photo). Around 110 objects were lifted over a period of ten days.
These gold crosses were an indication that this person was Christian but still buried in a pagan way:

A unique find was this folding stool, seen in manuscripts but never in reality until this site uncovered an example:
This plain but beautiful gold belt buckle is similar to the more ornate example from Sutton Hoo:
 A startling survival is the remains of a lyre, the most complete example found from this period in the UK:

The most stunning finds, in my opinion, are the blue glass beakers, which give us an insight into the craftsmanship of Anglo-Saxon glass makers at this time:

The quality of the artefacts, both local and imported, make this the tomb of a great noble or even a king. The candidates for his being a king are Saebert (died 616 AD) or Sigeberht II 'The Good' (murdered 653 AD). The dates of the finds indicate that the latter is more likely.

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