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K. Kris Hirst

Staffordshire Hoard: A Photo Essay

By September 24, 2009

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The Staffordshire Hoard is a newly discovered cache of gold and silver objects tentatively dated to the 7th-8th centuries AD. More than 1,500 objects, weighing approximately 11 pounds, were found by metal detectorist Terry Herbert in an agricultural field near his home in Staffordshire, England.

Gold Artifact from the Staffordshire Hoard
An intricately carved gold artifact is displayed as part of The Staffordshire Hoard, the UK's largest collection of Anglo Saxon treasure ever found, at
Birmingham Museum on September 24, 2009 in Birmingham, England. Photo by Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Among the treasures, which authorities believe date to the 7th and 8th centuries AD Anglo-Saxon period, are sword hilt fittings, helmet pieces, crosses and a strip of gold bearing a Latin inscription from the Bible. There are gobs of photos available from various press sources; the media loves to see lots of gold goodies and they were invited to bring along their cameras to the press conference held today at the Birmingham Museum. Not being in England, I was lucky to discover that Getty Images had a photographer there, so here are a few to look at in the Photo Essay of the Staffordshire Hoard.

The hoard is a very male-oriented, war-related collection; scholars are suggesting that it was the private cache of an elite Saxon warrior or warriors, or had been stolen from one or more. The swords themselves aren't there—the bits seem to have been torn off the weapons rather than the weapons themselves. Hard to say what that means at this point. The intricate designs, the numbers and sheer weight of the objects and the use of semi precious stones are all supporting evidence of that.

After analysis, which is expected to take months if not years, the artifacts will be displayed in a venue to be announced. Lots of museums are vying to buy the hoard, as you might imagine, and that group includes the British Museum and English Heritage.

More on Anglo Saxons and Hoards in General

Archaeology in Europe sent along this link to the official Press Packet

Also see the Portable Antiquities' Flickr page for lots more photos

News Stories

Thanks to Antiquity's Jo Tozer for the heads-up.


September 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm
(1) Craig says:

Very MALE oriented? Jealous? I never have seen someone that is so biased. Would you have said it was FEMALE oriented if they had found some golden combs?
What if it had been the spoils of war from a female led army?

September 27, 2009 at 2:57 am
(2) sciencebod says:

Can someone, Kris or someone else, explain to me why it’s being called “Anglo-Saxon” treasure, with the implicit assumption that it’s Anglo-Saxon workmanship? Given that it looks like war-booty, stripped off the fallen bodies of combatants, who’s to say it’s not pre-Anglo-Saxon treasure? Celtic? Or maybe those original inhabitants of England whom the history books seem to have overlooked. And no, I’m not talking about the Celts – who were also earlier invaders from the Continent. See the writings of Stephen Oppenheimer, the Oxford geneticist, summarised in my own blog (look for obvious keywords if not the latest posting). Who’s to say it’s not indigenous BRITISH treasure, buried during the (temporary) period of Anglo-Saxon domination?

September 28, 2009 at 8:02 am
(3) Kris Hirst says:

Nah, Craig, I’m never jealous of any culture that doesn’t have advanced eyewear. I’d be lost without glasses. I think that reference was to the fact that all of the material was from weaponry, and — for all I know of Saxons (or as sciencebod points out, whoever), they may have had female warriors.

And sciencebod, please feel free to post a link to your blogpost! I’d love to read it. That’s a really excellent question, to which I have no answer at the moment. Does anyone else know what the “saxon” or “anglo-saxon” characterization was based on?


September 28, 2009 at 9:09 pm
(4) Peter says:

An Anglo-Saxon Hoard

Fourteen centuries
In a fallow field
until a self-described
“metal detectorist,”
his earphones ecstatic,
found out the mud-caked hoard,
mangled and battered
by the plowshare’s edge.

Among the sword pommels
and scabard bosses
declared “treasure”
by the South Staffordshire
coroner (and therefore
property of the Crown)
there are no womens’ brooches
or clasps, though one stud
with millefiori glass
and intricate gold and garnet
edgework might have
adorned a noble wench.
The fine golden lines
Of an ef-piece spirals
into a miniature crop circle.

Was it some long forgotten
Mercian king, victorious
in battle yet vexed
by infighting among
his brethren, who gave
this goldhordian
stripped off his slain enemies
a hasty burial but never kept
his appointment to return.
Did he perish unlamented
in a nearby camp,
his dreams troubled by ravens?
Or, being a Christian,
might he have imagined
he’d come back
to collect his weregild
At the Day of Judgment?

A line from the Vulgate
Etched on one twisted fitting
speaks out across the blood-soaked,
blood-drained fields:
“Rise up O Lord,
and may thy enemies
be dispersed and those
who hate thee be driven
from thy face.”

© Peter Nohrnberg, 2009

September 28, 2009 at 11:06 pm
(5) Kris Hirst says:

Peter! That’s fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing it with us!


October 6, 2009 at 5:23 am
(6) Malcolm says:

Excellent contributions and I really love Peter’s, but what I think makes this amazing hoard particularly interesting is the extent that the styles and techniques seem to relate to so many Christian cultures. The large cross (shown reconstructed) is clearly contemporary Byzantine design, although it looks local and there were several quite like it in the recent Byzantium exhibition at London’s Royal Academy. The other pieces may be English, but could just as easily be Irish, Scottish, Visigothic, Baltic or Scandinavian. Travel took a bit longer than low cost jet, but there was plenty of it, even in the dark ages, especially in the Pilgrim business and associated trade in holy relics (mostly spurious) from Jerusalem and other sites. This really built up with the Crusades.

October 6, 2009 at 6:58 am
(7) sciencebod says:

Hello again.

I provided the requested link to my own blog some time ago, but the comment seems to have gone astray.

Here it is again (alternatively, one can hover one’s pointer over screen names – if they appear underlined, then click!)


PS It’s good to see the last comment – someone else who thinks the label “Anglo-Saxon” may be simplistic, or over-hasty, or maybe both.

July 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm
(8) James Nohrnberg says:

The Survivor’s Lament

(Spoken over the tumulus in which Beowulf in effect inters itself. The last tomb-occupant is a firedrake.)

– Earth! Secure for me what men could not:
Receive and vault this treasure, earthly got,
And yours by right. For you alone
Survive my line: you are my proper heir,
Whom I now design.
My guards and slaves are all asleep;
Rust invades the trust they could not keep.
My chiefs are gone, their helmets stripped
Of bravest gear, and their graves equipped
With harness of the horse and man,
Handwork of disabled artisans.
Death has ridden all their mounts to earth;
Giant-built, this barrow buckles on her girth,
Habit-hole of dross and drake.
Mounted gems, these a tomb can hold,
Snaked in nests: of gold and dust.
Caved-in goblets wine on sand,
And hilts, earth-pent, retain the cramp of hands.
But what remains of cups and swords?
—Rumours of the grasp and gulp of lords.
This den’s their Bild, last will and testament:
Loss of grip, so its hoard-deposits meant –
Praise lost, powerless to prevent
Weapon-theft, seizing on occasion—
Harps that cannot reach to pluck,
Arms that want the strength to strike,
Their mortal hour fatal struck.
—Piece on piece, left to plunder,
Arméd thighbone, jawbone, breast—
Now gone under … bled with grit and gravel-crust,
Use and user since called in.
Such plate is proper to this place,
No breath in it: exhausted
Shell, unattractive to the tenant.

June 14, 2011 at 6:26 am
(9) Wiaty says:

“The hoard is a very male-oriented, war-related collection; scholars are suggesting that it was the private cache of an elite Saxon warrior or warriors” – very possible, but who exactly knows that?

From the other hand it looks like warrior elite wear.

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