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A little AP blurb on a dude with a metal detector who found a massive Anglo Saxon treasure hoard mentioned in the “Share and Enjoy” section of The Usual Suspects has reignited my fascination with all things Early-Medieval-To-The-Point-Of-Damn-Near-Prehistoric.

A metal detector hobbyist trying his luck in a friend’s field stumbled upon the largest to-date cache of early-medieval treasure. Dated to circa AD700 (roughly contemporary with Sutton Hoo & the Lindesfarne Gospel), this new find could open up more understanding of the travels, politics, rites, and motivations of the post-Roman, pre-Norman British people.

Here is a video of the finder, Terry Herbert, speaking about his amazing discovery.

The only thing that bothers me a bit is how much of it he recovered before he called in the archaeologists. He claims to have dug up five boxes of artifacts before the archaeologists came out, and what little I know about archaeology from when I was doing my MA tells me that you can learn nearly as much from how/where the items are found as you can from the items themselves. Then again, this is three times bigger than the Sutton Hoo ship burial, and there was certainly plenty enough to learn from that particular find. It seems, though, that a fair number of items were not excavated, or were only partially excavated so archaeologists can have a bit of their own fun:

The present list runs to 1,345 objects, including 56 lumps of earth. X-rays show them to be studded with pieces of metal. You can make out tiny decorative animals and jewel settings, but until the lumps are taken apart we will not know what’s there. In other words, archaeologists have the prospect of themselves being able to excavate part of the country’s most spectacular ancient hoard.

It seems that these two famous treasure finds will inevitably be compared and contrasted. Apparently from roughly the same time period, and containing items of stunningly high quality craftsmanship, the superficial similarities are striking. But Sutton Hoo was quite obviously the material remains a funereal rite, while the purpose of the Staffordshire Hoard is currently less clear. It has been speculated that this was the spoils of one particularly successful raid, or it could well have been the accumulations of a lifetime of raiding. Personally, I would be more likely to believe the latter scenario – that this hoard amounts to some bygone hlaford‘s “Safe Deposit Box” of stuff he and his loyal troops nicked from other, less fortunate and successful noblemen.

A set on Flickr provides fabulous detail photos of some of the treasures.

This is definitely a story I will be following with interest. I imagine my alma mater, York University is buzzing like a stirred-up beehive these days. The CMS has got to be a pretty exciting place to be at this point. As I said over at The Ususals, I thought I was cured of any interest in anything medieval after doing my MA, but old habits die hard I guess. This time, however, I’m going to leave the research and shit to the academics and just read whatever articles come out of this kickassed discovery.

One Response to “I feel a new obsession coming on!”

  1. Tom In East Lawrence says:

    This is just stunning. I wish some of the swords had survived as well, not just the fittings. Mid Anglo-Saxon metallurgy was of high quality, but there is a heck of a lot about exactly *how* they worked iron that is unknown.

    I’m not quite as bothered by the finder – this was clearly a hoard and as such, fairly isolated in context. This is unlike the Sutton Hoo ship burial, where context was everything. Then again, he supposed it was a few isolated objects and once it dawned on him that he had a major find, he left off digging and called in the experts.

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