Highlights from the online burial chamber and the new exhibition include:
113 person-days to build a chamber fit for a prince
The original chamber timbers decayed, leaving only stains and impressions of the structure in the soil for archaeologists to investigate. Back in the lab specialists managed to find more evidence, including mineral-preserved wood surviving on iron wall hooks, from which they skilfully recreated the chamber design (pictured).
Working with engineers, the team calculated the resources needed to construct the chamber. Requiring about 113 person-days’ work, the chamber represents a huge investment in skilled labour, as well as materials.
New details of the man revealed through analysis
The most striking object in the coffin was a pristine gold buckle, a rare gold example indicating this was a high-status burial. This male status symbol would have fastened a waist belt over his tunic. Gold braid at the neck edged a piece cloth placed over his head, perhaps hiding the gold crosses that rested over his eyes, and at his feet small garter buckles suggest he wore soft leather shoes with cross gartering around his legs fastened over the shoes to keep them in place. The position of the two gold coins suggests that he may have held one in each hand.
Fragments of tooth enamel from within the coffin, the only remains of the person buried, show that he was over 6 years old, but offered no possibility of dating or DNA analysis to provide clues as to his identity. The size of the coffin, the position of items in the coffin and the presence of weapons in the chamber suggest this was a man, possibly a young man, about 1.73m (5ft 8in) tall.
Objects from the Prittlewell princely burial will go on permanent display at Southend Central Museum. Open to the public for free from Saturday 11 May 2019, the new permanent gallery features some of the chamber’s most impressive items and the interactive chamber.
The full research is published in a MOLA monograph: The Prittlewell princely burial Excavations at Priory Crescent, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, 2003 (£35) and a popular book: The Anglo-Saxon princely burial at Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea (£15).