Thursday, September 24th, 2009
With 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. [...]
The 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.
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.