Thursday 24 September marks an unprecedented announcement of the largest ever discovery of Anglo Saxon Gold, investigated by Birmingham Archaeology, part of Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity in the University's College of Arts and Law.
The hoard was discovered by Terry Herbert, who was detecting on private farmland with the written consent of the landowner. After uncovering an initial number of items Terry informed the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as required by the Treasure Act 1996.
Following the initial find Ian Wykes, leader of the Historic Environment team at Staffordshire County Council invited Alex Jones, Director of Birmingham Archaeology and colleagues to excavate the site. What emerged will surely redefine the dark ages. A hoard comprising in excess of 1,500 individual items, consisting mostly of gold, many decorated with precious stones.
It was a harvest of treasures so beautiful that it brought tears to the eyes of one expert, made up of vast pieces of gold, weapons and helmet decorations, coins and Christian crosses. It adds up to 5kg of gold – three times the amount found in the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial in 1939 – and 2.5kg of silver, and may be the swag from a spectacularly successful raiding party of warlike Mercians, some time around AD700.
In a Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery press conference earlier today Dr Kevin Leahy, from the Portable Antiquities Scheme commented that, “The quality of the collection is supreme! 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. It is going to be hard to forget the Midlands after this!”
Journalists and news broadcasters from around the UK voiced their excitement at one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the century.
Alex Jones said “The find demonstrates the value of archaeology and that the work that we do here in Birmingham impacts on a global scale.”
The find is set to alter our perceptions of Anglo Saxon England. It is the equivalent of discovering a new Book of Kells or the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Professor Anne Pauwels, Head of College of Arts and Law said, “This is fantastic news for the region and for the University and has undoubtedly raised the profile of the discipline and the importance of heritage research both of which are highly valued in the College and the University. Being a partner in one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of our time is something we can all be proud of.”