2009-Largest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold found in Staffordshire

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Largest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold found in Staffordshire

http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/

Source: the discovery told by https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/sep/24/anglo-saxon-treasure-hoard-gold-staffordshire-metal-detector

Article from the Guardian
“First pieces of gold were found in a farm field by an amateur metal detector who lives alone on disability benefit

A harvest of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver so beautiful it brought tears to the eyes of one expert, has poured out of a Staffordshire field – the largest hoard of gold from the period ever found.

The weapons and helmet decorations, coins and Christian crosses amount to more than 1500 pieces, with hundreds still embedded in blocks of soil. It adds up to 5kg of gold – three times the amount found in the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial in 1939 – and 2.5kg of silver, and may be the swag from a spectacularly successful raiding party of warlike Mercians, some time around AD700.

The first scraps of gold were found in July in a farm field by Terry Herbert, an amateur metal detector who lives alone in a council flat on disability benefit, who had never before found anything more valuable than a nice rare piece of Roman horse harness. The last pieces were removed from the earth by a small army of archaeologists a fortnight ago.

Herbert could be sharing a reward of at least £1m, possibly many times that, with the landowner, as local museums campaign to raise funds to keep the treasure in the county where it was found.

Leslie Webster, former keeper of the department of prehistory at the British Museum, who led the team of experts and has spent months poring over metalwork, described the hoard as “absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells”.

“This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries,” she predicted.

The gold includes spectacular gem studded pieces decorated with tiny interlaced beasts, which were originally the ornamentation for Anglo-Saxon swords of princely quality: the experts would judge one a spectacular discovery, but the field has yielded 84 pommel caps and 71 hilt collars, a find without precedent.

The hoard has just officially been declared treasure by a coroner’s inquest, allowing the find which has occupied every waking hour of a small army of experts to be made public at Birmingham City Museum, where all the pieces have been brought for safe keeping and study.

The find site is not being revealed, in case the ground still holds more surprises, even though archaeologists have now pored over every inch of it without finding any trace of a grave, a building or a hiding place.

The field is now under grass, but had been ploughed deeper than usual last year by the farmer, which the experts assume brought the pieces closer to the surface. Herbert reported it as he has many previous small discoveries to Duncan Slarke, the local officer for the portable antiquities scheme, which encourages metal detectorists to report all their archaeological finds. Slarke recalled: “Nothing could have prepared me for that. I saw boxes full of gold, items exhibiting the very finest Anglo-Saxon workmanship. It was breathtaking.”

As archaeologists poured into the field, along with experts including a crack metal detecting scheme from the Home Office who normally work on crime scene forensics, Herbert brought one friend sworn to secrecy to watch, but otherwise managed not to breath a word to anyone – even the fellow members of his metal detecting society when they boasted of their own latest finds.

None of the experts, including a flying squad from the British Museum shuttling between London and Birmingham, has seen anything like it in their lives: not just the quantity, but the dazzling quality of the pieces have left them groping for superlatives.

They are still arguing about the date some of the pieces were made, the date they went into the ground, and the significance of most seemingly wrenched off objects they originally decorated. There are three Christian crosses, but they were folded up as casually as shirt collars. A strip of gold with a biblical inscription was also folded in half: it reads, in occasionally misspelled Latin, “Rise up O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate the be driven from thy face.”

Kevin Leahy, an expert on Anglo-Saxon metal who originally trained as a foundry engineer, and who comes from Burton-on-Trent, has been cataloguing the find and describes the craftsmanship as “consummate”, but the make up of the hoard as unbalanced.

“There is absolutely nothing feminine. There are no dress fittings, brooches or pendants. These are the gold objects most commonly found from the Anglo-Saxon ere. The vast majority of items in the hoard are martial – war gear, especially sword fittings.”

If the date of between AD650 and AD750 is correct, it is too early to blame the Vikings, and just too early for the most famous local leader, Offa of Offa’s Dyke fame.

Leahy said he was not surprised at the find being in Staffordshire, the heartland of the “militarily aggressive and expansionist” 7th century kings of Mercia including Penda, Wulfhere and Æthelred. “This material could have been collected by any of these during their wars with Northumbria and East Anglia, or by someone whose name is lost to history. Here we are seeing history confirmed before our eyes.”

Deb Klemperer, head of local history collections at the Potteries museum, and an expert on Saxon Staffordshire pottery, said: “My first view of the hoard brought tears to my eyes – the Dark Ages in Staffordshire have never looked so bright nor so beautiful.”

The most important pieces will be on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from tomorrow until Tuesday October 13, and will then go to the British Museum for valuation – a process which will involve another marathon collaboration between experts. Their best guess today is “millions”.

Leahy, who still has hundreds of items to add to his catalogue, has in the past excavated several Anglo-Saxon sites including a large cemetery of clay pots full of cremated bone. He said: “After all those urns I think I deserve the Staffordshire find.”

Mysteries of Mercia

It is no longer politically correct to refer to the period as the dark ages – but Anglo-Saxon England remains a shadowy place, with contradictory and confusing sources and archaeology. Yet out of it came much that is familiar in modern Britain, including its laws, its parish boundaries, a language that came to dominate the world, as well as metalwork and manuscript illumination of dazzling intricacy and beauty.

Mercia was one of Britain’s largest and most aggressive kingdoms, stretching from the Humber to London, its kings and chieftains mounting short but ferocious wars against all their neighbours, and against one another: primogeniture had to wait for the Normans, so it was rare for a king to reign unchallenged and die in his bed.

They were nominally Christian by the date of the Staffordshire hoard, but sources including the Venerable Bede suggest that their faith was based more on opportune alliances than fervour.

In south Staffordshire, at the heart of the kingdom, Tamworth was becoming the administrative capital and Lichfield the religious centre as the cult grew around the shrine of Saint Chad. There were few other towns, and most villages were still small settlements of a few dozen thatched buildings. Travel, if essential, would have been easier by boat: archaeology suggests that much of the Roman road network was decaying, and in many places scrub and forest was taking back land which had been farmed for centuries.

The metalwork in the hoards came from a world very remote from the lives of most people, in mud and wattle huts under thatched roofs, living by farming, hunting, fishing, almost self-sufficient with their own weavers, potters and leather workers, needing to produce only enough surplus to pay dues to the land owner. A failing harvest would have been a far greater disaster than a battle lost or the death of one king and the rise of another.

The world of their nobles is vividly evoked in poems like Beowulf, probably transcribed long after they became familiar as fireside recitations, of summer warfare and winter feasting in the beer hall, where generous gift giving was as important as wealth.

Rich and poor lived in the incomprehensible shadow of a vanished civilisation, the broken cement and stone teeth of Roman ruins studding the countryside, often regarded with dread and explained as the work of giants or sorcerers. One poem in Old English evokes the eerie ruins of a bathing place, possibly Bath itself: “death took all the brave men away, their places of war became deserted places, the city decayed.”

See also: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2579038/Anglo-Saxon-hoard-revealed-4-000-pieces-stunning-handcrafted-treasure-hint-Beowolfs-description-golden-warriors-true.html

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/summer-2016/article/new-secrets-of-staffordshire-hoard-revealed

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-29646111

http://birminghamnewsroom.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Staffordshire-Hoard-Press-Pack.pdf

http://birminghamnewsroom.com/anglo-saxon-hoard-to-be-unveiled/

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2008 – Treasure hunter finds £25K Anglo Saxon gold cross

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images and article:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/treasure-hunter-finds-25k-anglo-324515

A metal detectorist trudging through a muddy field was amazed when he discovered a pure gold cross dating from the 7th century – and worth at least £25,000.

See also: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/leicestershire/7574992.stm

High Crosses

by Catherine E. Karkov

Introduction

High crosses are freestanding stone sculptures that are a feature of early medieval art in England, Ireland, Scotland, and, to a lesser extent, Wales. They are distinct from cross slabs, which are shaped slabs decorated with relief carvings of crosses and sometimes other types of decoration on one or both sides. The exact origins of the high cross are controversial. Much debate continues concerning in which area they were developed first. In terms of their form, the influence of prehistoric insular standing stones, the Jupiter and victory columns of the Roman world, and Early Christian processional crosses all have been cited. Surviving monuments suggest that high crosses first appeared in the 8th century and that their popularity varied both regionally and chronologically. In England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales they tended to disappear after the 10th or early 11th century, while in Ireland they remained popular well into the later Middle Ages. They also vary greatly in size (some are no more than a meter high, while others rise to 5 meters or more) and in decorative programs. In England and Scotland, for example, the earlier crosses are generally the most complex, but that is not the case in Ireland. (Note that high crosses are also discussed in the Oxford Bibliographies article Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture; see that article for general bibliographies as well.)

England

The high cross is one of the characteristic monuments of Anglo-Saxon England. The vast majority of crosses date from the early Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian periods (8th through 10th centuries), and they are located in the north of England. The southern examples not only are fewer in number, but they tend to receive far less scholarly attention than do their northern counterparts. As is true with Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture in general, Anglo-Scandinavian high crosses (the Gosforth Cross, for example) often display a greater secular content than do their Anglian counterparts. There are surprisingly few overviews of English high crosses, perhaps due to the large number of monuments that survive and the range of forms that they take. In general, pre-10th-century crosses are monastic sculptures, while the Anglo-Scandinavian period sees a marked increase in secular patronage. The first place to go for information on any individual sculpture is the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture. Collingwood 1989 (originally published in 1927) was the first systematic attempt to classify the Northumbrian crosses, and it remains a good introduction to the field, even if some of the author’s dates and conclusions have been proved wrong. Brown 1903–1937 is equally out of date, but it is an excellent source for early understanding of the crosses, especially their iconography, and for anyone interested in the historiography of the subject. Mitchell 2001 is also excellent for the information it provides on why some of the early crosses were erected. Karkov and Orton 2003 is useful for its new approaches to the study of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture”.

Fragment of Saxon cross

7b450319849ac0e8dd16c8b97c76ba7e7653a4ce“Kingston upon Thames, or Cyninges-tun as it was known in Saxon times, plays an important part in Anglo-Saxon history, for two main reasons. First, in 838 AD King Egbert of Wessex held a Great Council at Kingston. Second, Kingston was the site of the coronation of at least two, and possibly as many as seven, Saxon Kings, including Athelstan, crowned in 925 and generally regarded as the first man who could be called King of England. Both events took place on the site now occupied by All Saints Church, the earliest parts of which are Norman.

This picture is of a fragment of stone found when All Saints was being restored in Victorian times. Enough remains to show that its two sides were decorated with elaborately contrived interlaced patterns carved in relief. These make it almost certain that the stone once formed part of the shaft of a tall stone cross. The decoration is so worn and incomplete as to make only the most approximate dating possible, but the cross was probably erected at some time between the late 7th and the early 11th century, so it is possible that it would have been standing at the time of the coronation of Athelstan, or even at the Great Council of 838″.

 

Sandbach Crosses

Address: Sandbach

Text after: http://www.londonmuseums.org/english-heritage-sites/Sandbach-Crosses.html

Opening hours: You can visit the site at any reasonable time. Viewing is free.

Anglo-Saxon crosses in the middle of a marketplace simply present a compelling sight. The stone crosses can be traced back to the 9th century and can be found in Sandbach, Cheshire in England, thus the name Sandbach Crosses. They are unique in size, being larger than usual for its kind. English Heritage has given it a Grade 1 listed building status. The site is considered to be a scheduled monument.

Contact: English Heritage contact number 0870 333 1181

Research authorities believe that the larger cross was built during the early 9th century while the smaller one may have been built a little later, in the middle of the same century. It is also believed by others that the crosses were built as a commemoration of Peada of Mercia’s conversion into Christianity in the year 653. The earliest documented mention of the crosses was by William Smith from Nantwich, who served as Elizabeth I’s Rouge-Dragon Pursuivant at Arms. It was in 1585 that he wrote the following account of “two square crosses of stone…with certain images and writings…” The crosses could have been thrown down during an important event in history, perhaps during the Reformation of the Civil War. This caused its parts to be scattered. It was not until the 19th century that the parts were pieced together and reassembled under the supervision of Cheshire historian, George Ormerod.

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Today, the crosses have two columns in the sockets of the three stepped stones’ base. The northern cross is higher but its head had been broken. The southern cross is carrying the torn head of another cross. The crosses are works of arts in themselves and yet, they have also been depicted in other art forms, such as in William Alexander’s water colour.

Sandbach-Crosses-3

Visiting the Sandbach Crosses is exhilarating because you get to see a piece of history in the middle of a bustling modern world. You don’t have to hide out in an isolated piece of historic building to feel the past coming alive again. Just think about all the centuries that had passed and how these ancient relics had remained, even through in forms that are far from unscathed.

There was a time when elaborate etchings and carvings represent a religion. There are still samples of that in the present but 9th century crosses can certainly drive home the message of how things could be very different and yet similar even when time stretches between them. You can visit the site at any reasonable time. Viewing is free.