Amateur treasure hunter hits jackpot with Anglo-Saxon find
Posted : Thu, 24 Sep 2009
By : Josephine Gates
London - An amateur treasure hunter who unearthed Britain's largest-ever amount of gold and silver from the Anglo-Saxon period said Thursday he had seen "gold in his sleep" and felt that the rewards from his hobby were "more fun than winning the lottery."Terry Herbert, 55, who is unemployed, came across the massive hoard as he searched fields near his home in Staffordshire in England's West Midlands in July, using his trusted 14-year-old metal detector.
"People laugh at metal detectorists," he said, adding they people ridiculed them for searching for pennies. "Well, no, we are out there to find this kind of staff and it is out there."
"As soon as I closed my eyes I saw gold patterns, I didn't think it was ever going to end," said Herbert about his find on July 5.
The discovery of 1,345 items - most of it taken from weaponry, was officially declared a treasure by the authorities in Staffordshire Thursday, meaning that Herbert and the farmer on whose land they were found will share the seven-figure-sum museums are expected to pay to put them on display.
The hoard, which includes five kilos of gold and 2.5 kilos of silver, is believed to date back to the 7th century and could have belonged to Saxon royalty in what was once the Kingdom of Mercia.
"This is absolutely phenomenal. It is a hugely important find. ... The volume and size and range of material is amazing and there are things here that we have not seen before," said Duncan Slarke, finds liaison officer for Staffordshire.
Experts believe that the find is of greater archaeological significance than the 1939 discovery of the Sutton Hoo ship burial site near Ipswich, in the south-eastern county of Suffolk.
"This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries," said Leslie Webster, former keeper at the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe.
The find was "absolutely the equivalent" of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells.
Kevin Leahy, an archaeological expert who catalogued the hoard, praised the extraordinary craftsmanship it revealed.
"This was the very best that the Anglo-Saxon metalworkers could do, and they were very good. Tiny garnets were cut to shape and set in a mass of cells to give a rich, glowing effect; it is stunning."
"Its origins are clearly the very highest-levels of Saxon aristocracy or royalty. It belonged to the elite," 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."
A selection of the items went on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Thursday where they will be shown until October 13.
Meanwhile, Herbert, who said he was going to build a new home with his new-found wealth, said: "Maybe it was meant to be, maybe the gold had my name on it all along, I don't know."
How the heck did all that stuff end up in a farmer's field? Do they think someone was trying to hide it 1000 years ago and planned on going back to recover it, but something prevented their return? These items were certainly just as valuable in their day, so I wonder how someone lost track of so much bling. It's not like misplacing your car keys.
How did the hoard come to be buried in that field? It may have been a tribute to the pagan gods or concealed in the face of a perceived threat which led to it not being recovered. When we have done more work on the hoard we will be able to say more.
A stunning find. Hopefully the collection will stay together.
I heard yesterday that one of the gemstones had come from Sri Lanka! That's some trade for the 7th c