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Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009
The Staffordshire Hoard



Terry Herbert
Terry Herbert has been metal detecting as a hobby for more than 18 years

The largest ever haul of Anglo-Saxon gold in Britain, the so-called Staffordshire Hoard, was discovered buried beneath a farmer's field in Staffordshire in July 2009.

It has more than 1,500 items, made of gold and silver, embedded with precious stones and jewels.

The treasure was initially found on a farm by an amateur metal detector, Terry Herbert from Burntwood.

It dates back to around the 7th Century and is valued at £3.285m.

After the Staffordshire Coroner ruled in September 2009 that the find was the 'property of the Crown', arrangements were made for the valuation.

The money will be split between Mr Herbert, and Fred Johnson, who owns the farm where it was discovered.

Metal Detector man

Mr Herbert, from Burntwood in Staffordshire, came across the hoard as he searched Mr Johnson's farmland near Brownhills in July. The exact location has not been disclosed.

He's been metal detecting for 18 years as a member of the Bloxwich Research and Metal Detecting Club.

Their secretary Jim Wall told BBC WM, "I'm really pleased for him. It's fantastic he's recovered it for the nation to look at, and wonder at."

Fred Johnson put the find of the Anglo Saxon hoard down to "pure luck"

Fred Johnson told BBC Midlands Today: "Terry came in very excited and said I have found a Saxon hoard. It's better than winning the lottery! I told him not to be so bloody daft."

"But when I went to have a look, I could see they were bringing up some really fantastic stuff, really incredible workmanship."

Craftsmanship

Most of the items appear to date from the 7th Century. Historical experts say the quality and intricacy of the craftsmanship indicates many of the pieces were owned by royalty or noblemen.

The vast majority of the items were warfare related, including helmets, swords-hilts, and crests worn on clothing in battle.

The hoard also includes a strip of gold which bears a biblical inscription in Latin.

It quotes chapter 10 verse 35 of the Book of Numbers: "Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face".

There are also three gold crosses which have been folded, possibly to fit into a small space prior to burial.

Truly remarkable

Dr Kevin Leahy, who has been cataloguing the Hoard for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, said it was, "a truly remarkable collection".

He told BBC Radio Stoke, "I've been losing sleep over it - it's astonishing! The feeling of those archaeologists who've seen it is awe."

"We've actually been scared by the responsibility of dealing with this material."

Anglo-Saxon gold cross

"We always knew Mercia [the Anglo-Saxon kingdom area where Staffordshire is] was important."

"Great kings like Penda, Wulfhere and Ethelred ruled here, but until now we had no archaeological evidence to back this up, and then this lot comes up."

"It really does turn the lights on to what was going on in the Midlands at that time."

Dr Gareth Williams is a curator at the British Museum, and told BBC Radio Stoke that the find would fill in some gaps in what we know about Anglo-Saxon history.

"We can see that someone very, very wealthy has possessed this hoard, and that they must've taken some of the items away from other extremely wealthy people," he said.

"It's the product of one or more raids against neighbours, and fits into a period and culture of warfare and violence."

On display

Some of the collection initially went on display in October 2009 at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, with the rest placed in secure storage.

More than 10,000 people came to see the treasure in the first couple of weeks it was exhibited.

Some of the collection goes on display at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, in Hanley in February 2010.

Staffordshire County Council has teamed up with Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham City Councils to raise the money to buy it to keep it on display in the West Midlands.





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