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Watch: Treasures unearthed from Anglo-Saxon tomb

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By Euronews  with AP
Items unearthed include a golden belt buckle and the remnants of a harp
Items unearthed include a golden belt buckle and the remnants of a harp   -   Copyright  AP   -  

Archaeologists are revealing treasures discovered at an Anglo-Saxon Tutankhamun-style burial site in the south of England.

The 1400-year-old site, near Southend-on-Sea, 60 kilometres from London, was uncovered accidentally in 2003, when road workers discovered a collapsed underground wooden chamber in the village of Prittlewell.

Archaeologists say it's the most important Anglo-Saxon burial to have been discovered for more than 70 years. The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic people who ruled England from the fifth century until the Norman conquest of 1066.

"There hasn't been anything like it, [it's] nationally and internationally important," said Liz Barham, a senior conservator from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), who worked on the dig.

Treasures unearthed at the site include a golden belt buckle, the remnants of an ancient harp, glassware and an elaborate water vessel from the eastern Mediterranean, possibly Syria.

Roman and Anglo-Saxon burials had previously been found in the area, but what archaeologists from MOLA uncovered is thought to be one of the richest Anglo-Saxon burials discovered in the UK, and most likely for a person of high standing.

"There are luxury imports that have come from as far away as Syria. Some of the raw materials might have even come as far away as Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent," said Barham.

"This is a really rich burial. It's a statement being made about the family, about this person."

Archaeologists believe the burial was Christian, due to two small, gold-foil crosses found at the head of the coffin. They are thought to have been placed over the deceased's eyes, a symbol of Christianity. This makes it the earliest-dated Christian Anglo-Saxon princely burial site in the UK.

"He's either a Christian convert or his family are Christian," said Barham. "This is a really early date for that to happen, for Christianity to be coming into those elite families and to be overtly expressed through a burial."

One question experts may never be able to answer is the identity of the man laid to rest at the site, but locals have nicknamed him the "Prittlewell Prince" and have installed a plaque with the moniker where he was buried.

Dozens of the artefacts will go on show to the public on Saturday, 11 May, at Southend Central Museum.

Video editor • Christophe Pitiot