Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Anglo-Saxon treasures on display

Gold Anglo-Saxon artefact found in Staffordshire
This gold strip with a Biblical inscription is among the 18 items on public display

A small selection of the most important Anglo-Saxon find since the discovery of the Sutton Hoo burial site has gone on display at the British Museum.

A total of 18 items, all taken from the Staffordshire Hoard, can be viewed by the public in London.

The hoard, made up of more than 1,500 objects, was first discovered in early July in a field in south Staffordshire by a man using a metal detector.

It is being examined by experts who will report to a valuation committee.

The committee will decide the market value of the hoard and interested museums will be able to try to acquire it at that price.

The finder and landowner will receive the sum in full.

The items on public display include a gold Christian cross folded into a ball, a sword fitted with exquisite garnet inlay and a gold strip with a Latin inscription from the bible.

All the objects are associated with war to some or a greater extent
Michael Lewis, British Museum

The hoard is currently thought to date from the seventh century and was discovered in the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, a pagan area at the time.

Michael Lewis, deputy head of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum, said there was no clear reason why the treasure had been deposited in the field.

He said: "The view is that it was probably in some sort of container but that has not survived and it was deliberately hoarded, put into the ground, what is unclear is why, and I suppose what we find is they would have been objects that had been stripped from the enemies' weapons.

"What is interesting about the hoard as a whole is all the objects are associated with war to some or a greater extent.

"What the hoard consists of is mainly gold objects, there are some silver ones, basically they have been stripped from whatever they were on for instance sword fittings."

He added: "What it demonstrates is that the Anglo-Saxons as a people were very able to do amazing things with objects and I reckon people nowadays attempting to make these objects would have great difficulty in doing so."

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