Treasures Of 'Southend's King' At Museum In Docklands

By Richard Moss | 13 July 2004
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shows a museum conservation expert cleaning a large iron-bound bucket which is badly distorted and the wood has decayed.

Photo: conservator Liz Barham works on a large iron bucket discovered in the Southend hoard. © Museum of London.

Following months of delicate conservation work finds from the treasure of the Saxon ‘king’ of Southend are to go on display for the first time at the Museum in Docklands.

From 14 July to 15 August 2004 the new finds will be exhibited along with the gold crosses, the Coptic flagon and bowl, the buckles, coins and glass jars that were on show for a short time earlier this year at the Museum of London.

The treasure was discovered last year by archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology Service. They uncovered what they believe to be the grave of an important person, possibly a king or other noble, during a dig at the Priory Crescent Road development scheme in Southend.

shows a photograph A cast bronze flagon of carinated form with a slightly convex base and a lid that is secured to the ornate handle by a chain.

Photo: a cast bronze flagon. © Museum of London.

David Spence, Director of the Museum in Dockland said: “I am thrilled to present these wonderful treasures in this museum. Docklands has always had close links with Southend so it is particularly appropriate that these latest treasures are on display here.”

Many of the objects, which date from the early 6th or 7th centuries, were so delicate when discovered that they were lifted from the site with much of the soil still surrounding them. It has taken over a year of painstaking restoration work to reveal their true beauty.

Visitors to the museum will now be able to see a silver Byzantine spoon, a rare gilded fitting from a drinking horn, bone gaming pieces and an unusual iron stand from the hoard. However, the objects remain in a delicate state and most will require more conservation before they can displayed long-term.

shows a photograph of series of flat bone counters. They are round in shape with flat bottoms.

Photo: these bone counters are typical of 7th century high status burials. Picture © Andy Chopping, MoLAS

The hoard also contained some larger surprise discoveries including an iron scythe and a copper-alloy bowl. Both were found at the bottom of a large iron-bound bucket which was discovered in the grave and x-rayed.

Work is ongoing to sieve soil from the site for microscopic remains such as tiny bones, seeds and other residues that will give more clues as to the importance of the grave discovery.

Archaeologists believe the presence of the spoon and the gilded fittings point towards a high status burial although the everyday objects like the iron stand have never been found in any other burials of this type.

The exhibition will officially launch National Archaeology Days taking place over the weekend of 17th and 18th July at the Museum of London Group’s three sites: Museum in Docklands, Museum of London and Mortimer Wheeler House.

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