Staffordshire Hoard

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Staffordshire Hoard
Staffordshire hoard annotated.jpg
A selection of highlight pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard (top) and a gold sword hilt fitting with cloisonné garnet inlay (below), uncleaned by conservators, still showing traces of soil
Flickr - portableantiquities - Hilt Fitting.jpg
Material
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Stone
  • Garnet
Size over 3,500 items
Writing Latin
Created c. 7th to 8th centuries
Discovered 2009
Hammerwich near Lichfield, Staffordshire, England
52°39′19″N 1°54′24″W / 52.65528°N 1.90667°W / 52.65528; -1.90667Coordinates: 52°39′19″N 1°54′24″W / 52.65528°N 1.90667°W / 52.65528; -1.90667
Discovered by Terry Herbert
Present location

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found. It consists of over 3,500 items, amounting to a total of 5.1 kg of gold, 1.4 kg of silver and some 3,500 pieces of garnet cloisonné jewelry.[1]

The hoard was most likely deposited in the 8th century, containing mostly artefacts dated to the 7th to early 8th centuries, with some of its sword pommels possibly as old as the mid 6th century.[2] It was discovered in 2009 in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England. The location was in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia at the time of the hoard's deposition.

The hoard is of considerable importance in Anglo-Saxon archaeology. [3] The artefacts are nearly all martial in character and contains no objects specific to female uses.[4][5] The average quality of the workmanship is extremely high and especially remarkable in view of the large number of individual objects, such as swords or helmets, from which the elements in the hoard came.

The hoard was purchased jointly by the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery for £3.285 million under the Treasure Act 1996.

Contents[edit]

The hoard consists of approximately 3,500 pieces,[1] comprising up to 5 kg (11 lb) of gold and 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) of silver,[6] and is the largest treasure of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver objects discovered to date, eclipsing, at least in quantity, the 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) hoard found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial in 1939.[7]

Most of the items in the hoard appear to be military, and there are no domestic objects, such as vessels or eating utensils, or feminine jewellery, which are the more common Anglo-Saxon gold finds. Reportedly, the contents "show every sign of being carefully selected".[8] There is broad agreement that the typical object in the hoard was made in the 7th century, with the date of the deposition of the hoard of course post-dating the manufacture of the latest object it includes.

Along with other discoveries, examination of the hoard showed Saxon goldsmiths were able to alter the surface of the gold by depletion gilding to give the appearance of a higher gold content, a technique not previously credited to them.[9]

A summary of the preliminary contents of the hoard, as of late 2009, is shown in the table below. This excludes items such as the gold horse's head that were in one of the 33 soil blocks that had not been examined at the time of publication of these figures.

Summary of items found[10]
Description Gold Silver Base
metal
Composite
metals
Stone
or glass
Uncertain Total
Appliqué 1 1
Bead 1 1
Boss 6 1 7
Brooch 1 1
Buckle and plate 2 2
Button 1 1
Cross 5 5
Dome 1 1
Edging 11 69 6 1 87
Fish 1 1
Fitting 35 11 3 4 53
Foil 16 16
Fragment 79 177 29 19 4 7 315
Garnet 26 26
Glass gem 1 1
Mount 15 4 19
Panel 3 3
Pin 2 5 7
Plate 58 13 1 1 1 74
Ring 12 1 13
Rivet 27 29 5 4 65
Setting 2 1 3
Sheet metal 36 233 12 3 2 286
Slag 2 2
Snake 5 5
Spillage 1 1
Stone 1 1
Strip 94 102 5 1 1 203
Stud 9 3 1 13
Sword hilt plate or fitting 178 29 8 1 1 217
Sword pommel 69 10 5 2 86
Sword pyramid 8 1 1 10
Sword scabbard loop 1 1
Wire 34 13 1 1 49
Unidentified 2 4 1 2 1 8 18
Total 712 707 78 39 36 22 1,594

Weaponry[edit]

Assorted uncleaned gold fittings, three with cloisonné gold and garnet.
Sword fitting with garnet

The contents include many finely worked silver and gold sword decorations removed from weaponry, including 66 gold sword hilt collars and many gold hilt plates, some with inlays[8] of cloisonné garnet in zoomorphic designs (see lead picture).[11] The 86 sword pommels found, constitute the largest ever discovery of pommels in a single context, with many different types (some previously unknown) supporting the idea that the pommels were manufactured over a wide range of time.[12]

Crosses[edit]

The Staffordshire Hoard official press statement notes that the only items in the hoard that are obviously non-martial are two (or possibly three) crosses. The largest of the three crosses is missing some decorative settings (yet some are present but detached) but otherwise remains intact, and it may have been an altar or processional cross. Yet the cross is folded; either prior to burial "to make it fit into a small space" or as a sign that the burial deposit was made by pagans. On the other hand, the statement notes, "Christians were also quite capable of despoiling each other's shrines."[13] A gold and garnet fitting, made for the corner of a flat rectangular object, may be for the corner of a book-cover, which in this context would almost certainly have been a religious book.[original research?]

Gold strip[edit]

Gold strip with inscription

One of the most intriguing items in the hoard is a small strip of gold (StH 550), measuring 179 mm × 15.8 mm × 2.1 mm when unfolded, inscribed with a biblical quotation, from Numbers 10:35, in insular majuscule, on both sides, as

[S]URGE:DNE:DISEPENTURINIMICITUIE/T | [F]UGENT QUIODERUNTTEAFACIETUA (outside)
SURGE DNE DISEPINTUR [...MIC]ITUIE/TFUGIU[N/T]QUIO DE | [R]UNTTE AF ACIE TU[..]DIUIE NOS[.R.] (inside)

The Nova Vulgata reading of this passage is: Surge Domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua (KJV: "Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.") The reading of the additional words on the second version of the text, [a]diuie nos[.r.], is unclear; they may be practice letters, meaning that the inside face was not supposed to be visible and contains an abandoned attempt of the inscription.[14]

The passage is quoted fairly often, notably in the Life of the Mercian Saint Guthlac (d. 714), most likely composed in the 730s. The passage occurs in the context of Guthlac's meeting with Æthelbald, the later king of Mercia, in which the saint foretells that the king's enemy would "flee from your face". The parallel verse from Psalm 67 (Hebrew numbering 68), verse 2, occurs when Guthlac is driving away demons who appeared to him in a vision.[14]

Paleographically, the inscription most likely dates to the 8th century, with the late 7th or early 9th not to be ruled out. The closest parallel to the script used is the inscription in the lead plate from Flixborough, dated to the 8th or 9th century.[14]

The gold strip may have been originally fastened to a shield or a sword belt,[15] or alternatively, it may have been part of the arm of a cross; a round cabochon jewel would have been fitted to the terminal end, and the other end would have fitted into the central fitting of the cross.[16]

Context and purpose[edit]

Sheet Gold Plaque
Folded panel from a cross, with interlace

The hoard was deposited in a remote area, just south of the Roman Watling Street, some 2.5 miles (4.0 km) west of Letocetum, at the time part of the extra-parochial area of Ogley Hay (now part of the Hammerwich parish), in the highland separating the Pencersæte and Tomsæte within the kingdom of Mercia. [17]

The quality of the artefacts buried in the hoard is very high. The apparent selection of "martial" artefacts, especially the decoration of swords, does not suggest that the hoard consists simply of loot. Most of the gold and silver items appear to have been intentionally removed from the objects they were previously attached to. Brooks (2010) associates the predominantly warlike character of the artefacts in the hoard with the custom of giving war-gear (heriot) as death duty to the king upon the death of one of his noblemen.[18] The removal of the sword pommel caps finds a parallel in Beowulf which mentions warriors stripping the pommels of their enemies' swords. [19]

Wall (2015) postulates a connection to Peada, briefly king of Mercia in 655/6.[20]

Discovery and excavation[edit]

Gold artefacts were discovered by Terry Herbert on 5 July 2009, when he was searching an area of recently ploughed farmland near Hammerwich, Staffordshire with a metal detector.[21] Over the next five days, enough gold objects were recovered from the soil to fill 244 bags. At this point Herbert contacted Duncan Slarke, the Finds Liaison Officer for the Staffordshire and West Midlands Portable Antiquities Scheme. The landowner Fred Johnson granted permission for an excavation to search for the rest of the hoard.

2009 excavation[edit]

Excavation work was funded by English Heritage who contracted Birmingham Archaeology to do the fieldwork. Ploughing had scattered the artefacts, so an area 9 by 13 metres (30 by 43 ft) was excavated in the search.[22] Because of the importance of the find, the exact site of the hoard was initially kept secret.[7] A geophysical survey of the field in which the hoard was found discovered what could be a ditch close to the find. Although excavations revealed no dating evidence for the feature, further investigation is planned. In total over 3,500 pieces were recovered.[1] A final geophysical survey using specialist equipment provided by the Home Office did not suggest any further artefacts remained to be found.[23]

Cheek piece from a helmet.

The discovery was publicly announced on 24 September 2009, attracting worldwide attention. An official website set up to showcase finds from the Hoard received over 10 million views in the first week after the announcement. Whilst Birmingham Archaeology continued to process the find, items from the Hoard were displayed at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery until 13 October 2009, attracting 40,000 people.[24][25] Andrew Haigh, the coroner for South Staffordshire declared the hoard to be treasure,[24] and therefore property of the Crown. A further selection of pieces from the Hoard was displayed at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. Key items and numerous smaller pieces were then taken to the British Museum, London, where cataloguing, and some initial cleaning and conservation work commenced.

As of 24 September 2009, 1,381 objects had been recovered, of which 864 have a mass of less than 3 grams (0.096 ozt), 507 less than 1 gram (0.032 ozt), leaving just 10 larger items. X-rays of unexamined lumps of earth suggest that there are more to be revealed. Early analysis established that the hoard was not associated with a burial.[8]

2010 excavation[edit]

In late March 2010, a team of archaeologists carried out a follow-up excavation on the site, digging 100 metres (110 yd) of trenches and pits in the field. According to Staffordshire county archaeologist, Stephen Dean, there is no more gold or treasure to recover from the site, and the aim of the new excavation is to look for dating and environmental evidence. Archaeologists hope to be able to use this evidence to determine what the landscape looked like at the time that the hoard was deposited.[26]

2012 finds[edit]

In December 2012 it was announced that 91 additional items of gold and silver metalwork had been found in the field where the Stafforshire Hoard was discovered in 2009. The finds were made in November 2012 when archaeologists and metal detectorists from Archaeology Warwickshire, working for Staffordshire County Council and English Heritage, visited the field after it had been ploughed. Many of the pieces are less than 1 gram (0.032 ozt) in weight, but there are some larger pieces, including a cross-shaped mount, an eagle-shaped mount, and a helmet cheek piece that matches one from the 2009 discovery. These additional pieces are believed to be part of the original hoard.[27][28][29]

In January 2013, 81 of the 91 items were declared treasure at a coroner's inquest, and, after they have been valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee, Staffordshire County Council will have an opportunity to purchase the items so that they can be reunited with the rest of the hoard. Although these items were found by archaeologists, the money raised by their sale will be shared between Herbert and Johnson as they were responsible for the original discovery of the hoard. The ten items not declared treasure were identified as modern waste material.[30][31]

Kevin Leahy of the British Museum has stated that the ten items not declared as belonging to the original hoard may represent part of a different Anglo-Saxon period hoard. Two of these ten items are high quality pieces of copper alloy, but they are different in style to the gold and silver items of the original hoard. He concludes that "Anglo Saxons clearly visited the site more than once to bury items".[32]

Valuation and sale[edit]

Terry Herbert examining items from the Staffordshire Hoard at the British Museum in October 2009. The items have been laid out for valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee.

On 25 November 2009 the hoard was valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee at GBP 3.285 million, which, under the provisions of the 1996 Treasure Act, is the sum that must be paid as a reward to the finder and landowner, to be shared equally, by any museum that wishes to acquire the hoard.[33][34]

After the hoard was valued, it was announced that the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery intended to jointly acquire the entire hoard, and a public appeal was launched to raise the £3.285 million needed to purchase the hoard. The Art Fund co-ordinated the appeal. If the sum had not been raised by 17 April 2010, the Hoard might have been sold on the open market and the unique collection permanently broken up.[35] On 23 March 2010 it was announced that the sum had been raised three weeks before the deadline, after a grant of GBP 1.285 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was added to the money already collected from individuals, councils, and other groups and associations.[36] Although the purchase price has been achieved, the Art Fund appeal is still continuing, in order to raise a further GBP 1.7 million to help fund the conservation, study and display of the hoard.[36]

Terry Herbert, the finder of the hoard, and Fred Johnson, the farmer on whose land the hoard was found, each received a half share of the GBP 3.285 million raised by the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.[37] The two men were later reported to have "fallen out" over the division of the money.[38]

Display[edit]

The hoard was first displayed at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (from 24 September 2009 until 13 October 2009), and subsequently part of the hoard was put on display at the British Museum (from 3 November 2009 until 17 April 2010). Eighty items from the hoard, including a gold horse's head that has not previously been exhibited, went on display at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent from 13 February 2010 until 7 March 2010.[39] Key items from the Hoard are on long-term temporary display at Birmingham Museum and at the Potteries Museum . Approximately 80 Hoard objects are on display in Gallery 12 in Birmingham and a further 80 in Stoke-on-Trent. Items from the hoard were on display at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC, United States, from 29 October 2011 to 4 March 2012.[40][41] The hoard will be put on permanent display at the Birmingham Museum and at the Potteries Museum, but there are plans to make some items from the hoard available on loan to historic Mercian sites, such as Tamworth Castle and Lichfield Cathedral, as part of the Mercian Trail.[42][43]

On 26 January 2012 the hoard was featured in the hour-long BBC2 documentary Saxon Hoard: A Golden Discovery presented by TV historian Dan Snow.[44]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Alexander, Caroline (November 2011). "Magical Mystery Treasure". National Geographic. 220 (5): 44. 
  2. ^ Svante Fischer and Jean Soulat, The Typochronology of Sword Pommels from the Staffordshire Hoard, The Staffordshire Hoard Symposium (March 2010).
  3. ^ "absolutely the metalwork equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells [...] this is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, than the Sutton Hoo discoveries.""The Staffordshire Hoard: Comments sent to us". . "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." "Anglo-Saxon gold: largest ever hoard officially declared treasure". Telegraph.co.uk. London. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.  "absolutely the metalwork equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells [...] this is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, than the Sutton Hoo discoveries.""The Staffordshire Hoard: Comments sent to us". . "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." "Anglo-Saxon gold: largest ever hoard officially declared treasure". Telegraph.co.uk. London. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  4. ^ "The Find". Staffordshire Hoard. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Leahy & Bland 2009, p. 9
  6. ^ "The Staffordshire Hoard: Press statement". 
  7. ^ a b Kennedy, Maev (24 September 2009). "Largest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold found in Staffordshire". Guardian.co.uk. London. Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c "The Staffordshire Hoard: Discovery and Initial Assessment" (PDF). Portable Antiquities Scheme. Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  9. ^ "Treasure hoard reveals how goldsmiths cheated their Saxon clients". independent.co.uk. 16 October 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2016. 
  10. ^ Leahy & Bland 2009, p. 44
  11. ^ "Catalogue of the objects". Portable Antiquities Scheme. p. 82. Retrieved 24 September 2009. 449 ... Gold ... Sword Hilt Collar 
  12. ^ Fischer, Svante & Soulat, Jean. "The Typochronology of Sword Pommels from the Staffordshire Hoard". Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "The Inscriptions". Current Archaeology. Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  14. ^ a b c Elisabeth Okasha, The Staffordshire Hoard inscription, The Staffordshire Hoard Symposium (March 2010), revised version (October 2011).
  15. ^ Satter, Raphael G. "Largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure found in UK". NEWSFACTOR.com. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  16. ^ "The Staffordshire Hoard: interpretative comments from Nicholas Brooks". Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  17. ^ Della Hooke, The Landscape of the Staffordshire Hoard, The Staffordshire Hoard Symposium (March 2010).
  18. ^ Nicholas Brooks, The Staffordshire Hoard and the Mercian Royal Court, The Staffordshire Hoard Symposium (March 2010).
  19. ^ "The Find" (staffordshirehoard.org.uk): "The famous Saxon poem Beowulf contains lines that experts believe may describe circumstances similar to the burial of the hoard: ‘One warrior stripped the other, looted Ongentheow’s iron mail-coat, his hard sword-hilt, his helmet too, and carried graith to King Hygelac; he accepted the prize, promised fairly that reward would come, and kept his word. They let the ground keep that ancestral treasure, gold under gravel, gone to earth, as useless to men now as it ever was.’" The quote is conflated from Seamus Heaney's 1999 translation of two passages, 2985–2990 and 3166–3168.
  20. ^ Wall, M. (2015) The Anglo-Saxon Age: The Birth of England Amberley Publishing, Chapter 5.[unreliable source?]
  21. ^ Leahy & Bland 2009, pp. 4, 6
  22. ^ Leahy & Bland 2009, p. 6
  23. ^ Leahy & Bland 2009, pp. 6–8
  24. ^ a b Leahy & Bland 2009, pp. 8–9
  25. ^ "Crowds visit Anglo-Saxon hoard". News.bbc.co.uk. 25 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  26. ^ "Team digs for clues at Staffordshire Hoard site". Tamworth Herald. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  27. ^ "Staffordshire Hoard: More fragments found in Hammerwich". News.bbc.co.uk. 18 December 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  28. ^ "New Finds Discovered in Staffordshire Hoard Field". 18 December 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Kennedy, Maev (18 December 2012). "Staffordshire hoard site yields further 90 fragments". Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  30. ^ "Staffordshire Hoard inquest rules most new items treasure". News.bbc.co.uk. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  31. ^ "Treasure found near Staffordshire Hoard to be valued by British Museum". The Telegraph. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  32. ^ "More Staffordshire Hoard treasure may still be buried". Express & Star. 5 January 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  33. ^ "Treasure Valuation Committee agree GBP 3.285 million valuation for the Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon Hoard". The British Museum. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  34. ^ "Anglo-Saxon gold is worth £3.285m". News.bbc.co.uk. 26 November 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2009. 
  35. ^ "Help save the Staffordshire Hoard for the West Midlands". The Art Fund. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  36. ^ a b "Staffordshire Hoard saved for the nation". The Art Fund. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  37. ^ "Golden times ahead for Staffordshire Hoard millionaire". Express & Star. 19 July 2010. 
  38. ^ Richard Alleyne, Two men who fell out over the Staffordshire Hoard set for another windfall, The Telegraph, 18 December 2012. Sunday Mercury, Staffordshire Hoard millionaires in secret feud, Birmingham Mail, 20 March 2011, updated 24 October 2012.
  39. ^ "Dazzlingly detailed horse leads Staffordshire Hoard galloping back to Potteries". Culture24. Retrieved 26 January 2010. 
  40. ^ "Anglo-Saxon Hoard: Gold from England's Dark Ages". Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  41. ^ "Staffordshire Hoard goes on display in Washington DC". 29 October 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2016 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  42. ^ "The Staffordshire Hoard: Staffordshire hoard acquired following fundraising appeal". Portable Antiquities Scheme. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  43. ^ "The Mercian Trail" (PDF). Birmingham Assay Office. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  44. ^ "Saxon Hoard: A Golden Discovery - BBC Two". Retrieved 17 September 2016. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]