An unemployed amateur treasure hunter has unearthed what is possibly the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found, British archaeologists say. The discovery could change the way historians view the Dark Ages in Britain, one said.
Roger Bland, who managed the excavation of the treasure, told the Associated Press:
This is just a fantastic find completely out of the blue. It will make us rethink the Dark Ages.
The Anglo-Saxons immigrated to England from northern Germany and Denmark and ruled the country from the fifth century until their defeat by the Normans in 1066. Their cultural influence is still felt in the English-speaking world.
The hoard includes crosses, enamel-studded sword fittings, checkerboard pieces inlaid with garnets and gold, the crest of a helmet embossed with depictions of running animals and even a gold band with a Biblical inscription in Latin calling on God to drive away the owner’s enemies. The gold items alone weigh some 11 pounds (about five kilograms.)
The cache, which is made up of more than 1,300 items, is on the territory of the former Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, and has been tentatively dated between 675 and 725 A.D. Archaeologist Kevin Leahy said the cache appeared to be war loot. He said:
It looks like a collection of trophies, but it is impossible to say if the hoard was the spoils from a single battle or a long and highly successful military career. We also cannot say who the original, or the final, owners were, who took it from them, why they buried it or when? It will be debated for decades.
Leahy added that the craftsmanship included some of the highest-quality Anglo-Saxon art ever found.
Amateur archaeologist, Terry Herbert (55) found the hoard with a metal detector two months ago on a friend’s farm in western England. He spent five days scouring the field before realising he needed help from experts, who then took over the work. Herbert said making the discovery was ”more fun than winning the lottery.” He added:
I was going to bed and in my sleep I was seeing gold items.
The hoard was officially declared as treasure by a coroner and will be valued by experts, and then offered for sale to a museum. The money will be split 50-50 between Herbert and the farmer and is said to be ”a seven-figure sum.”