Staffordshire Hoard

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Terry Herbert, a 55-year-old jobless man living on welfare, recently scoured the English countryside with his metal-detector and uncovered the Staffordshire Hoard — 1,500 pieces of intricately worked gold and silver dating back to the seventh century:

They said it surpassed the greatest previous discovery of its kind, a royal burial chamber unearthed in 1939 at Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk. That find shaped scholars’ understanding of the warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of 1,300 years ago that ended up as the unified kingdom of England.

The new trove includes items that one expert in Anglo-Saxon artifacts said brought tears to her eyes: gold items weighing 11 pounds, and 5.5 pounds of silver. Tentatively identified by some experts as bounty from one of the wars that racked Middle England in the seventh and eighth centuries, they included dagger hilts, pieces of scabbards and swords, helmet cheekpieces, Christian crosses and figures of animals like eagles and fish.

Archaeologists tentatively estimated the value of the trove at 1 million pounds — about $1.6 million — but say it could be many times that. And they took a vicarious pleasure in noting that the discovery was not the outcome of a carefully planned archaeological enterprise, but the product of a lone amateur stumbling about with a metal detector.

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