Friday, 25 September 2009

More on the Staffordshire Hoard

The more information that emerges about the Staffordshire Hoard, the more remarkable it seems. Two years ago, the British Museum paid £125,000 for an Anglo-Saxon sword handle. There are 310 such parts in the new hoard! Leslie Webster, a former BM curator could, understandably, hardly control his excitement: ‘It will make everyone think again about rising and falling kingdoms, the transition from paganism to Christianity, the conduct of battle and the nature of fine metalwork.’ It appears that some of the objects in the hoard came from as a far away as Byzantium and modern-day Sri Lanka.

The identity of the person responsible for the discovery has been revealed. Terry Herbert, a 55-year-old former coffin maker from Walsall, found the vast hoard using his 14-year-old metal detector on farmland owned by a friend (who has since sold it), believed to be near Lichfield. Mr Herbert and his friend will soon be very wealthy men indeed; the coroner in nearby Cannock declared the find a treasure trove and a committee is currently evaluating its worth. The amount of gold is so large that there are fears it may have a depressive effect on the gold market. Mr Herbert though seems nonplussed, dealing with the media in the typically deadpan delivery of a true Black Countryman. Only once did romance get a hold of him, when he declared that the find was his destiny: ‘I have this phrase,’ he told the assembled throng of the world’s media,’ that I say sometimes, “Spirits of yesteryear take me where the coins appear”, but on that day I changed coins to gold.’ He has changed our understanding of Anglo-Saxon history too.

A sample of the hoard goes on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery today until October 13th. I thoroughly recommend their excellent Edwardian Tea Room.

Duncan Slarke of the Portable Antiquities Scheme was the first archaeologist to see the hoard. An interview is available on the Birmingham News Room website.

A new website devoted to the Staffordshire Hoard has also recently gone live providing images of some of the objects, a history and various interpretations of the find.

Visit our Anglo-Saxon focus page for further information on the period as a whole.

Images: (Staffordshire Hoard website)

- Gold strip with a biblical inscription

- Gold helmet cheek piece

1 comment:

Diomedes1962 said...

You will have heard of the Brown Hill Hoard

Our worthy warrior prince, a well-loved shield brother, great in battle,
High born in the blood of Woden and Offa, wielding war-gear,
ripped with terrible and bitter blows from fearless men,
now Hell possessed, fell breathe-choked at the Brown Hill.

Wary and fearful of the Danes in the East, and reaching into the forest,
the hoard, no less great than his many hard-won and famed victories,
is slipped under the forest floor, out of harm’s way.
Safe in the earth’s keeping, the hard won scrap-gold rests.

What treasures: bright red stones from far distant lands, all wrapped in gold;
the crumpled cross of the Wielder of Glory; and Beasts of The Book.
War-gear wrought with skill: sword-fixings; hilts; cheek-pieces; arm-bands.
The finest war-trappings of the finest men, battle-fallen and gone.

In time a finder comes, Walh halh born, a wood-skilled earth-scourer,
scrap-finder of renown, following the ploughman, a son of John.
Around his Feast Day he tilled the treasure, unlocked the hoard.
Now all hail the ancient and forgotten sword-heroes of middle earth.

P.S. The nearest museum to Brownhills is at Walh halh and context is everything:

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