Archaeologists discovered an extraordinary Anglo-Saxon princely burial in Prittlewell in 2003, but many of its secrets remained hidden, only to be revealed as experts began their painstaking research.


In 2003 archaeologists from MOLA excavated a small plot of land in Prittlewell, Essex, for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. They were astounded to discover an intact Anglo-Saxon burial chamber.

Careful excavation revealed a collection of rare and precious objects that had been placed within a rectangular timber structure as part of a carefully choreographed burial rite. The artefacts, including an elaborate gold belt buckle made specially for the burial, show this to be the resting place of a man of princely lineage. The crosses over his eyes indicate he was a Christian, a flagon from Syria speaks of his worldly connections, cauldrons and drinking horns suggest a man accustomed to hosting feasts and a musical instrument provides insight into the traditions and pastimes of this lordly figure.

The chamber’s most impressive items are now on permanent display at Southend Central Museum.


Many of the chamber’s secrets lay concealed beneath centuries of corrosion and soil, only to be revealed as conservators and archaeological specialists began their meticulous work.

The research was undertaken by a team of over 40 experts in a range of specialisms, including Anglo-Saxon artefacts and art, ancient musical instruments and woodworking, engineering, soil science and scientific dating. The team left no stone unturned, using a range of techniques – from soil micromorphology and CT scans to Raman spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy and mass spectrometry – in their quest to reconstruct and understand the chamber as it would have been on the day of the funeral.

The research has uncovered hitherto unidentified and unique artefacts, and details about the man buried. Led by archaeological experts from MOLA, the work was funded by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Historic England. The full research is published and available to buy at

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