Anglo-Saxon gold hoard 'worth seven-figure sum'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A massive hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver found by a metal detector enthusiast is worth a "seven-figure sum", an expert said today.

The haul of at least 1,345 items was officially declared to be treasure by a coroner this morning and will now be valued by a committee of experts.

Dr Roger Bland, head of portable antiquities and treasure at the British Museum, said: "I can't say anything other than we expect it to be a seven-figure sum."



The cache - the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold yet found - was hailed today as "a fantastically important discovery".

The haul was found by metal detectorist Terry Herbert, 55, just below the surface of a cultivated field in south Staffordshire in July.

South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh said: "This is a magnificent find, both in terms of its content and its likely history."

Dr Bland told the inquest in Cannock the significance of the find was "only beginning to dawn" on the small number of experts who have examined it.

He said: "It is at least as significant as any of the major discoveries of this period that have been made in the past."

Conceding it may be difficult to establish the story which lies behind the astonishing find, Dr Bland added: "It is a fantastically important discovery.



"It is assumed that the items were buried by their owners at a time of danger with the intention of later coming back and recovering them."

Archaeologist Dr Kevin Leahy said none of the experts involved in the discovery had seen anything like it before.

He told a press conference at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: "These are the best craftsmen the Anglo Saxons have got, working with the best materials, and producing incredible results."

Ian Wykes, head of Staffordshire County Council's historic environment team, said some of the objects - many of them related to warfare - were found lying on top of the soil.

Archaeologists were "fairly confident" there was no more treasure buried at the site, he added.

Dr Bland said the hoard - thought to date back to between 675 and 725AD - was unearthed in what was once the Kingdom of Mercia.

"I think wealth of this kind must have belonged to a king but we cannot say that for absolute certain," the expert said.

A total of 1,345 items have been examined by experts, although the list includes 56 clods of earth which have been X-rayed and are known to contain further metal artefacts, meaning the total number of items is likely to rise to around 1,500.

More than 30 other objects found with the hoard have been deemed to be of modern date and were not found to be treasure.

Dr Bland confirmed that copper alloy, garnets and glass objects were discovered at the undisclosed site, but the "great majority" of the treasure was gold or silver.

The expert added: "Our best guess is that it was buried some time between the late seventh century and the early eighth century.

"We hope that further research will enable us to be a little more precise."

Experts have so far established that there are at least 650 items of gold in the haul, weighing more than 5kg (11lb), and 530 silver objects totalling more than 1kg (2.2lb) in weight.

"That in itself is an enormous quantity of precious metal," Dr Bland said.

"It's bigger than any other hoard of precious metal from the Anglo-Saxon period by quite a large margin."

Dr Bland said the Staffordshire hoard was quite different from the Sutton Hoo burial site, which was uncovered in Suffolk in 1939.

He said: "It's a hoard of objects and it's going to be hard to try and uncover the story that might lie behind it.

"At the moment all we can really do is speculate and hope that more detailed study will help us to pin it down more precisely, but it is a hugely important discovery."

The finder of the haul and the owner of the land have agreed to split the proceeds of the sale of the artefacts, which include sword pommels and at least two crosses.

Mr Haigh heard just 30 minutes of evidence before deciding that the haul should be formally classed as treasure.

Expressing hopes that the collection will eventually be bought by a museum and go on display in Britain, preferably in the West Midlands region, the coroner said: "This is a massive and fantastic find.

"These seem to be largely male items, probably military-linked items. Having heard the evidence, it is clear to me ... that these 1,345 items should be considered to be treasure."



Leslie Webster, former keeper at the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe, said: "This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries.

"(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells."



Mr Herbert, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, has described unearthing the haul as "more fun than winning the lottery".

"My mates at the (metal detecting) club always say that if there is a gold coin in a field, I will be the one to find it. I dread to think what they'll say when they hear about this," he said.





Dr Leahy said one of the most compelling elements of the find is what is missing.

He said: "It consists almost entirely of war gear, which is very strange.

"There are very few dress fittings, there are no feminine dressings. There are no brooches or pendants.

"There is no sign of the iron blades from the swords at all, just the fittings."

He added: "My interpretation is that they were being taken as trophies. I don't think these items were taken from people when they were alive.

"This was a time of great military activity, strife and struggle. They were very troubled times."

* Details of the hoard can be seen at www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape