Metal detectorist, Terry Herbert, discovered the find most metal detectorists can only dream of, on arable ground in early July this year. Realising its significance, he immediately contacted Duncan Slarke of the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Finds Liason Officer for Staffordshire and the West Midlands.
X-ray examination of the clay blocks revealed some amazing indications of fragments decorated with filigree, some decorated with cloisonné garnets and many pieces of crumpled sheet metal some of which could be idenitifieds as sword hilt plates along with rivets from the hilts.
A formal dig was arranged and a team of archaeologists from Birmingham Archaeology excavated the site for a month from end of July through August this year with Kevin Leahy, National Advisor to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, reporting on the finds. The results were breathtaking.
The hoard had been carefully stashed away, in ground unlikely to be disturbed as there are no indications of burial, settlements, or other structures. Maybe the owner hid it from iminent danger, intending to retrieve it later, or maybe it was a ritual offering. What is extra ordinary is the apparently deliberate destruction of the valuable items before they were buried, as if ritually put out of action or sacrificed. Could this be the trophy hoard of a wealthy warrior king?
Staffordshire is deep in the heartland of the Anglo-Saxon Mercia, a militarily aggressive and expansionist kingdom during the 7th and 8th centuries under the kings Penda (633-655), Wulfhere (658-675), Aethelred (675-704), Coenred (704-709), Ceolred (709-716), and Aethelbald (716-757). Any or all of these could have amassed a fortune such as this.
This comes from Current Archaeology 236, which contains the definitive guide to the Staffordshire Hoard, out on the 1st October. Subscribe now to reserve your copy