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What do we know about the Essex burial site being hailed as the UK's ‘Tutankhamun tomb’?

Archaeologists have digitally recreated a royal burial site discovered in Essex, describing it as the UK's equivalent of 'Tutankhamun's tomb'.

The amazing discovery was found in Prittlewell more than 15 years ago during some roadworks.

Tooth enamel fragments found in the chamber indicate that that they belonged to an ancient prince, but what else do we know about one of the most important archaeological finds of the 21st century....

  • Who was in the tomb?
The site was discovered in 2003. Credit: MOLA

Experts still aren't 100% sure, but they now believe that the body may be that of a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince called Seaxa.

When the grave was originally unearthed in 2003, archaeologists worked on the theory that the remains were those of Saebert who was the Saxon king of Essex from AD604 to AD616.

However, carbon dating tests have now indicated that the tomb was actually constructed between AD575 and AD605 which was at least 11 years before Saebert's death.

That means that the most likely candidate was Saebert's brother Seaxa, although archaeologists acknowledge that they could still be proved wrong.

"That may also not be correct, but that's the best guess," Sophie Jackson, director of research and engagement at the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), said.

"There's a lot of debate about whether he was a fully-fledged hairy beast Saxon warrior, or younger. Had he died before he could really prove himself as he could have been buried with more kit?"

  • What was in the tomb?
A wooden box dating back 1,400 years was among the items discovered at the burial site. Credit: Mola

Along with the human remains, archaeologists also discovered around 40 artefacts which have helped to paint a picture of who was buried at the site.

Among the most significant finds was a lyre, which is the equivalent of an ancient harp, and it's believed to be the first time a lyre has been recorded in complete form.

The grave also included a 1,400-year-old box, thought to be the only surviving example of painted Anglo-Saxon woodwork in Britain, as well as things like gold coins and a flagon believed to be from Syria.

The fact that some of the artefacts came from other kingdoms suggest he was a wealthy man and gold foil crosses which were found at the head of the coffin would probably have been placed over his eyes - indicating that he was a Christian.

  • What do we know about the site?
  • Watch an ITV News Anglia report on the site from 2004

Workmen first discovered the site during roadworks between a pub and an Aldi supermarket in Prittlewell, Southend in 2003.

It's now been acknowledged as the earliest dated Christian Anglo-Saxon princely burial in the country.

The structure measured about 13ft (4m) by 13ft (4m) and around 5ft (1.5m) deep.

For the past decade or so, archaeologists have been speculating that the grave belonged to the Saxon king Saebert but they now think it was actually his brother Seaxa.