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A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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New Thoughts on Princely Anglo-Saxon Tomb

Thursday, May 9, 2019

England Anglo Saxon Gold BucklePRITTLEWELL, ENGLAND—According to a BBC News report, the occupant of an intact burial chamber discovered in a burial mound in southeastern England in 2003 may have been an early Christian Anglo-Saxon prince. Tooth enamel fragments were the only human remains recovered from his large wood coffin, which contained gold-foil crosses that may have been placed over his eyes, and a golden belt buckle. “They would have been just on the transition between having pagan burials with all your gear but also having these crosses,” said Sophie Jackson of the Museum of London Archaeology. It had been previously thought the tomb, which measured 13 feet square and five feet deep, might have belonged to Saebert, Saxon king of Essex, but radiocarbon dating revealed it was constructed between A.D. 575 and 605, or at least 11 years before the king’s death. Researchers now think the tomb may have been built for the king’s brother, Seaxa. Among the tomb’s princely treasures were a copper-alloy hanging bowl, a lyre, fragments of a painted wood box, gold coins, the gilded silver neck of a wooden drinking vessel, glass beakers, a folding iron stool, and a sword with a pattern-welded blade and a horn handle decorated with gold wire. To read in-depth about an Anglo-Saxon castle in northern England, go to “Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

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