Leading article: Golden hoard

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They are known as the Dark Ages. But the golden sheen and exquisite workmanship of the Staffordshire hoard make that name seem singularly inappropriate. This vast collection of Anglo-Saxon treasures – and the manner of its discovery – will do wonders for the unfashionable pursuit of metal detecting. But the find will send an even bigger jolt of excitement through the archaeology profession. Artefacts tell us almost everything we know about the period when Germanic tribes – the Saxons, the Angles and the Jutes – settled these islands because written sources from that era are so rare. So for Anglo-Saxon scholars this find is like the discovery of not only Tutankhamun's tomb, but the Rosetta Stone to boot. They will help unlock a culture.

These opulent artefacts are a source of visceral wonder to us. But what the trove promises to tell us about the people who once lived on these islands is equally precious.

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