September 24, 2009
What has been described as “the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found” has been uncovered by an amateur treasure hunter in England.
Although news of the great find began to break today, 55-year-old Terry Herbert made the discovery in July using a metal detector. The exact location has not been divulged, only to say that Herbert was searching on farmland located in the heart of the former Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. The items, now labeled the "Staffordshire Hoard", are thought to date to 675-725 AD.
A Web site was quickly developed to handle interest in the story. Leslie Webster, Former Keeper, Department of Prehistory and Europe, British Museum, is quoted as saying about the discovery, “This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England…”
Also according to the Web site:
“The Hoard comprises in excess of 1,500 individual items. Most are gold, although some are silver. Many are decorated with precious stones. The quality of the craftsmanship displayed on many items is supreme, indicating possible royal ownership. There is approximately 5 kg (11 pounds) of gold and 1.3 kg of silver.
“Stylistically most items appear to date from the seventh century, although there is already debate among experts about when the Hoard first entered the ground.
“This was a period of great turmoil. England did not yet exist. A number of kingdoms with tribal loyalties vied with each other in a state of semi-perpetual warfare, with the balance of power constantly ebbing and flowing.
“England was also split along religious lines. Christianity, introduced during the Roman occupation then driven to near extinction, was once again the principal religion across most of England.”
What will happen to the treasure? The site explains that the Coroner for South Staffordshire held an inquest today to decide whether the hoard is treasure under the Treasure Act 1996. It did just that and vested ownership to the Crown. The hoard is now offered to museums to acquire. Under the Act, the finder and landowner will divide a reward of full market value.
At present, the treasures are being held in secure storage at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. A selection will be on display in Birmingham Museum from Friday Sept. 25 through Oct. 13. The objects will then be taken to the British Museum for valuation.
For more details and photos of the hoard, go to www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/