Archeologists showed off a hoard of glass and copper jugs, ceremonial crosses and other Saxon artifacts Thursday, giving the public a first look at a rare find of a royal tomb from the seventh century.
"To find an intact chamber grave and a moment genuinely frozen in time is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery," Ian Blair, the senior archeologist on the dig, said at the Museum of London.
He said copper-alloy bowls were still hanging from hooks in the walls of the chamber where they had been placed nearly 1,400 years ago.
Nothing remains of the king who was buried in the wood-walled grave discovered beneath the streets of Prittlewell, in the English Channel port Southend, about 55 kilometres east of London.
The treasures buried with the Prince of Prittlewell, as the archeologists call him, were in remarkably good condition. They included a ceremonial sword and glass jugs.
The grave was discovered intact during an archeological investigation by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council as part of a road-improvement plan. The Southend area was known to be of archeological interest before the dig.
"We had no idea we would find anything like this. We didn't expect anything so unique," said Lyn Blackmore, a finds specialist for the Museum of London.
It is the most significant Saxon find since the discovery of a tomb at Sutton Hoo in eastern England in 1939. Experts believe the Southend burial was from about the same period as the Sutton Hoo burial and the two kings may have known each other.
Sections of the burial site have been removed in boxes to be analyzed in a more stable laboratory environment. About 60 artifacts have been uncovered and catalogued so far.
Experts estimate it will take years to analyze their precious findings. Preliminary examination has indicated that many of the artifacts travelled from the eastern Mediterranean, northern Italy and Hungary.
The display at the Museum of London continues through Feb. 17, when it moves to the Southend Central Museum in Southend-on-Sea from Feb. 21 until March 22.