Tomb of Anglo-Saxon Prince Found in Essex
Most of us have heard of the famous tomb of the teen-aged Egyptian king, Tutankhamun (sometimes Tutenkhamen), that was uncovered nearly 100 years ago.
(Carsten Frenzl CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Popularly known as "King Tut," part of what made the discovery of King Tut's tomb fascinating was that so much of the burial treasure was intact. The chamber was largely hidden from looters and grave robbers over the centuries, spared from a nearly universal problem with all the other pharaonic tombs.
Now, the culmination of more than a decade of archaeological findings in Essex (U.K.) at an Anglo-Saxon royal burial site is being likened to the well-known Tutankhamun tomb.
Surprising Tomb Location
Archaeologists have been digging at the site, located at Prittlewell in the English town Southend-on-Sea, for the past 16 years.
Their hard work has yielded fascinating new insights. The royal burial uncovered at Prittlewell was originally believed to be for King Saebert of the Anglo-Saxons. In point of fact, it turns out it's far more likely that the tomb was used for his younger brother, Prince Saexa, due to the date of the coins and funerary artifacts found therein.
Like Tut, Saexa was in all likelihood only a teenager at the time of his death. Gold coins were found over his eyes, a common funeral practice of many cultures during antiquity. The burial chamber also included other relics made of gold, silver, glass and wood. The coins dated to around 580 CE.
Also similar to King Tut, there is evidence that suggests this royal family wielded power at a time of religious transition.
For the Ancient Egyptians, Tutankhamun's rule marked the end of a brief period where his dynasty recognized the deity Aten as the supreme godhead rather than Amun (or Amen). Tut's father was the pharaoh Akhenaten; originally, the boy-king was thus named Tutankhaten before Egypt's religious traditions reverted back to worshiping Amun.
In the case of the Anglo-Saxon Prince Saexa, medieval Britain in the late 6th century was gradually undergoing its own cultural transition from paganism to Christianity.
The in-depth study of this discovery is providing interesting clues about the emergence of Christian beliefs and iconography among the otherwise pagan worldview and rituals of the early Anglo-Saxons.
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Everett has been the head content writer and market analyst at Gainesville Coins since 2013. He has a background in History and is deeply interested in how gold and silver have historically fit into the financial system.