Saturday 22 December 2012

More Staffordshire Hoard Artefacts Found

Three years after metal detector enthusiast Terry Herbert made the discovery of the largest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold in 2009, a further 90 pieces have been discovered in the same field during ploughing of the field in Hammerwich, near Lichfield.

Following the original discovery of the Hoard the dig was closed down when archaeologists were confident they had retrieved everything that was recoverable. Last month, a team of archaeologists and experienced metal detectorists from Archaeology Warwickshire returned to the field when it was ploughed and recovered further material. These are currently being examined and x-rayed at a specialist archives laboratory.

More Staffordshire Gold - Photograph by Vivienne Bailey
Many of the 90 pieces from the new find of gold and silver weigh less than a gram and includes a probable helmet cheek piece, a cross-shaped mount and an eagle-shaped mount. Experts from Staffordshire County Council and English Heritage believe the pieces could be part of the original hoard. Archaeologists were convinced they had recovered all of the Hoard in 2009 and Dr Della Hooke, vice president of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society, said "It's absolutely amazing. In the last search they used top-quality equipment to go over the area, which they use to find underground stuff in Afghanistan. They were absolutely certain there was nothing else down there.”

Dr Hooke added that the new find could also prove wrong some theories as to how the items got to the field, "Nobody really knows why the hoard is there. It could have either been a deliberate burial on a boundary perhaps after someone died or buried quickly by someone who had stolen it who was making an escape on Watling Street. ….....This new finding, if it is part of the hoard, could change everything. If they found the items in a different location it doesn't sound like it was stolen after all."

However, the new pieces appear remarkably similar to the items recovered from the same field in 2009, typical warrior regalia, or Anglo-Saxon "gangland bling" as historian David Starkey called it, the spoils of war recovered from the fallen at the battle site. Repeated ploughing is capable of scattering artefacts considerable distances from the original interment. It is unlikely we will ever know why the Hoard was buried in this field but it is significant that it is very close to the major route of the Roman road of Watling Street, the modern A5. We can only speculate if the Hoard was booty from one of Penda's many raids on Northumbria or the Welsh  attack on Caer Lwytgoed, Wall (Letocetum) near Lichfield,  recorded in Marwnad Cynddylan.

The Staffordshire Hoard artefacts found in 2009 include a bishop’s pectoral cross, a large folded cross, a helmet cheek piece, a filigree seahorse and many sword fittings including hilt plates and pommel caps. The bulk of the Hoard has been dated to the 7th century, although there is some debate among experts as to when the Hoard first entered the ground yet there seems little doubt that this is war booty buried in the Mercian heartland of Staffordshire.

The Staffordshire Hoard was declared treasure and valued at £3.3m by independent experts at the British Museum, the most valuable treasure discovery ever made. A huge fundraising campaign, led by The Art Fund, and featured a major donation from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, was launched to bring the treasure back to the West Midlands.

The new items were found in the same field where over 3,900 pieces of over 5kg of gold, 1.5kg of silver and thousands of small garnets and some copper alloy objects were found in 2009 but we will have to wait for an inquest on 4th January 2013 when South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh will rule if the metalwork pieces are part of the Anglo Saxon collection and should be declared treasure.

Coroner confirms new find is Staffordshire Hoard
After hearing evidence for around an hour, which included a presentation from Anglo-Saxon metalwork expert Dr Kevin Leahy who worked on the original discovery, Coroner Andrew Haigh ruled in Stafford today (Friday 04/01/2013) at South Staffordshire Coroner’s Court inquest, that a further 81 artefacts discovered in November 2012 in the same farmer’s field in south Staffordshire, including a helmet cheek piece and pectoral crosses similar to items from the original find in 2009, are part of the Staffordshire Hoard collection.

The coroner’s ruling means that the new artefacts are officially classed as treasure, and will now undergo a valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee at the British Museum at a hearing likely to take place at the end of March. The hearing will determine the amount of money the land owner and metal detectorist who originally discovered the Staffordshire Hoard can expect to receive for the newly found items.

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent is currently displaying the largest exhibition of the Staffordshire Hoard to date. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery also has a permanent exhibition of the treasure.

'More Delights are Discovered' – Stafford Express & Star, 20 December 2012
Coroner Confirms New Staffordshire Hoard Find - Birmingham News Room 04 January 2013

** UPDATE APRIL 2014 **
Rethinking the Staffordshire Hoard
England's largest-known cache of Anglo-Saxon metalwork has been reunited for the first time since its excavation, allowing researchers to uncover a wealth of new information about its parts, provenance, and purpose.
It is now known that decorations were stripped from far more weapons than previously suspected. Could the hoard comprise the spoils of multiple battles?
Current Archaeology 290


Staffordshire Hoard at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
A new gallery uncovering the fascinating story of the Staffordshire Hoard is now open from 17 October 2014 at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Hundreds of pieces from the Hoard are on show, along with hands-on displays exploring how these intriguing items were used, before they were buried some 1400 years ago.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Secrets of the Saxon Goldsmiths
All that glitters is not gold? According to the latest research on the Staffordshire Hoard, it certainly seems so. Ongoing investigations are revealing that sophisticated Saxon goldsmiths had developed a technique to make their gold appear to be rather more golden than it really was. How did they do it?
Current Archaeology 297 

The Staffordshire Hoard Symposium
Papers from the Staffordshire Hoard Symposium held at the British Museum in March 2010.

The Staffordshire Hoard website
Keep up to date with the latest news on the largest hoard of Anglo Saxon gold ever found.

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