The Staffordshire Hoard - Britain's largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold & silver artifacts yet found.

Article published on November 16, 2013. Written & compiled by admin.

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found. Discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England, on 5 July 2009, it consists of over 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character and contains no objects specific to female uses. The artefacts have tentatively been dated to the 7th or 8th centuries, placing the origin of the items in the time of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

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Gold artefacts were discovered by Terry Herbert on 5 July 2009, when he was searching an area of recently ploughed farmland near Hammerwich, Staffordshire with a metal detector. Over the next five days, enough gold objects were recovered from the soil to fill 244 bags. At this point Herbert contacted Duncan Slarke, the Finds Liaison Officer for the Staffordshire and West Midlands Portable Antiquities Scheme. The landowner Fred Johnson granted permission for an excavation to search for the rest of the hoard.

Terry Hubert discovered the hoard using an old metaldetector. He said "Why me? Why have I found it? Why has other people been on this field detecting and never found it? Was I destined to find it? I just don't know.

It was here in this field near the village of Hammerwich that Herbert discovered the hoard.

The hoard has been described by Leslie Webster, former keeper of the department of prehistory at the British Museum, as "absolutely the metalwork equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells." She stated further that "this is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries." Dr Roger Bland, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, said, "It is a fantastically important discovery. It is assumed that the items were buried by their owners at a time of danger with the intention of later coming back and recovering them."

A gold sword hilt fitting with cloisonné garnet inlay

Terry Hubert at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

The hoard was valued at £3.285 million and has now been purchased by the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. Both landowner Fred Johnson & Terry Hubert shared in the profit. The total value of £ 3.285 million was devided between them.

A collection of artifacts

Folded Cross

Experts have produced a range of theories as to where the hoard came from and how it came to be deposited, and whether the objects were made for Christians or pagans. The average quality of the workmanship is extremely high and especially remarkable in view of the large number of individual objects, such as swords or helmets, from which the elements in the hoard came.

Pectoral Cross

Millefiori Stud

2009 excavation

Excavation work was funded by English Heritage who contracted Birmingham Archaeology to do the fieldwork. Ploughing had scattered the artefacts, so an area 9 by 13 metres (30 by 43 ft) was excavated in the search. Because of the importance of the find, the exact site of the hoard was initially kept secret.[8] A geophysical survey of the field in which the hoard was found discovered what could be a ditch close to the find. Although excavations revealed no dating evidence for the feature, further investigation is planned. In total over 3,500 pieces were recovered. A final geophysical survey using specialist equipment provided by the Home Office did not suggest any further artefacts remained to be found.

The discovery was publicly announced on 24 September 2009, attracting worldwide attention. An official website set up to showcase finds from the Hoard received over 10 million views in the first week after the announcement. Whilst Birmingham Archaeology continued to process the find, items from the Hoard were displayed at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery until 13 October 2009, attracting 40,000 people.[10][11] Andrew Haigh, the coroner for South Staffordshire declared the hoard to be treasure trove,[10] and therefore property of the Crown. A further selection of pieces from the Hoard was displayed at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. Key items and numerous smaller pieces were then taken to the British Museum, London, where cataloguing, and some initial cleaning and conservation work commenced.
As of 24 September 2009, 1,381 objects had been recovered, of which 864 have a mass of less than 3 grams (0.096 ozt), 507 less than 1 gram (0.032 ozt), leaving just 10 larger items. X-rays of unexamined lumps of earth suggest that there are more to be revealed. Early analysis established that the hoard was not associated with a burial.

2010 excavation

In late March 2010, a team of archaeologists carried out a follow-up excavation on the site, digging 100 metres (110 yd) of trenches and pits in the field. According to Staffordshire county archaeologist, Stephen Dean, there is no more gold or treasure to recover from the site, and the aim of the new excavation is to look for dating and environmental evidence. Archaeologists hope to be able to use this evidence to determine what the landscape looked like at the time that the hoard was deposited.


2012 finds

In December 2012 it was announced that 91 additional items of gold and silver metalwork had been found in the field where the Stafforshire Hoard was discovered in 2009. The finds were made in November 2012 when archaeologists and metal detectorists from Archaeology Warwickshire, working for Staffordshire County Council and English Heritage, visited the field after it had been ploughed. Many of the pieces are less than 1 gram (0.032 ozt) in weight, but there are some larger pieces, including a cross-shaped mount, an eagle-shaped mount, and a helmet cheek piece that matches one from the 2009 discovery. These additional pieces are believed to be part of the original hoard.
In January 2013, 81 of the 91 items were declared treasure at a coroner's inquest, and, after they have been valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee, Staffordshire County Council will have an opportunity to purchase the items so that they can be reunited with the rest of the hoard. Although these items were found by archaeologists, the money raised by their sale will be shared between Herbert and Johnson as they were responsible for the original discovery of the hoard. The 10 items not declared treasure were identified as "wastage".
Kevin Leahy of the British Museum has stated that the ten items not declared as belonging to the original hoard may represent part of a different Anglo-Saxon period hoard. Two of these ten items are high quality pieces of copper alloy, but they are different in style to the gold and silver items of the original hoard. He concludes that "Anglo Saxons clearly visited the site more than once to bury items".

Watch here the full documentary ''Treasure Hoard - The Secrets of the Lost Gold'', a National Geographic production:

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Thanks for watching!

J.P.