Largest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold found in UK

Gold scabbard boss inlaid with garnetsWith almost 3 times the amount of gold found at the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial 80 years ago, plus pounds of silver, decorative objects and weapons, the importance of this hoard of Saxon treasure cannot be overstated.

Experts are literally crying over it and calling it a find on a par with the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Yet again it was a metal detector hobbyist who literally struck gold this July in a farm field in Staffordshire. Terry Herbert lives on disability in public housing. When all is said and done, he and the landowner may be millionaires and then some.

The weapons and helmet decorations, coins and Christian crosses amount to more than 1500 pieces, with hundreds still embedded in blocks of soil. It adds up to five kilos of gold – three times the amount found in the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial in 1939 – and 2.5 kilos of silver, and may be the swag from a spectacularly successful raiding party of warlike Mercians, some time around 700AD. [...]

Gold and garnet hilt fittingThe gold includes spectacular gem studded pieces decorated with tiny interlaced beasts, which were originally the ornamentation for Anglo Saxon swords of princely quality: the experts would judge one a spectacular discovery, but the field has yielded 84 pommel caps and 71 hilt collars, a find without precedent.

Interestingly, there are no female adornments in the hoard. No jewelry, no brooches, no dress fittings, items which in past finds have formed the bulk of the treasure. That’s one of the reasons archaeologists think it may be the spoils of Mercian battles.

Gold cross,  foldedThere are 3 crosses in the hoard. The largest has been folded, possibly for ease of transport, which suggests the possessors may not have been Christians.

The find has been kept on the down low — the exact location still has not been published — while archaeologists finished excavating the treasure. The last pieces were removed a couple of weeks ago.

Now they’re at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery where they will be on display from tomorrow until October 13th.

After that it’s off to the British Museum, where it will be valuated by more giddy experts as local museums scramble to raise enough funds to purchase the treasure for their galleries.

Gold pyramid sword fitting Gold patterned dagger hilt Gold horse-shaped helmet fitting Gold helmet cheek piece

Images courtesy of www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk

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10 Comments »

Comment by LadyShea
2009-09-24 10:30:28

Oh man, the carving and inlay work is stunning!

Comment by livius drusus
2009-09-24 10:51:59

Isn’t it, though? All those fittings must have sparkled like crazy on the battlefield.

 
 
Comment by Hans
2009-09-25 10:04:48

There’s got to be more caches like it out there!

Comment by livius drusus
2009-09-25 10:07:30

There probably are, but nothing on this scale has been found before, so it may be a while before we see its like again.

Meanwhile, archaeologists are going to check out the rest of the area to see if there’s anything else close by. That would be some coup for the farmer.

 
 
Comment by Sarah
2009-09-25 14:30:20

That is just so beautiful. Things like that make my heart go to my throat. Especially when you imagine a real person some hundreds of years ago touching these things.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-09-25 16:50:42

I get that same feeling too. It’s a real connection to people who can often feel more like characters in a book than genuine human beings like us who lived 1300 years ago.

 
 
Comment by duncan
2009-09-25 16:43:44

…spectacular; I can almost visualise the happy
plunderers burying their loot…one can only imagine what happened to keep from coming back to dig it up

Comment by livius drusus
2009-09-25 16:51:48

It would have had to have been something major, no doubt about it. I’m guessing yet another battle, only the next one didn’t go quite so well for our plundering friends.

Comment by duncan
2009-09-25 17:45:00

no doubt you’re right…the only other thing that comes to mind is that he or they
had tossed back to much celebratory ale & simply forgot where they buried it ( one flat field looks more or less the same as the next)

Comment by livius drusus
2009-09-25 17:56:36

He may have buried it in a rush too. Terry Herbert found it quite close to the surface. A bit of gold was actually showing through a thin covering of earth.

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