Thursday, September 24, 2009


I have been waiting for this one. There have been hints in the news, then announcements that announcements were to be forthcoming, and finally there are pictures and stories and everything: a huge Anglo-Saxon gold hoard has been found! This past July, in a farmer's field, by a metal-detecting enthusiast, Terry Herbert.

I have used a metal detector a grand total of once, years ago. A friend had made one from a kit, I think, and had planned to make a living (that summer, anyway) walking up and down the beach and finding buried car keys, watches, and other things that tourists would gladly pay him lots of money for. I don't think anything actually ever came of it. My friend gave up too quickly. Mr. Herbert, on the other hand, has been at this for 18 years! I would love to know what sorts of things he has found in that time, to keep him going.

But back to July's find. Over 5 kg of gold, over 2.5 kg of silver, and seemingly all of it significant. The metalwork is superb, and the collection large enough to suggest that this belonged to someone of real importance. It includes the gold decorations from sword hilt plates and pommel caps, buttons, cheek plates (or at least one) from a helmet, armbands, crosses, and more (check out the slide show at that link--I don't know how to link to it directly. Most stunning to me is the photo of a couple of pieces of the treasure sitting on the surface of the field, having been plowed up by the farmer. Just sitting there. Beautiful, historical, ancient, gold). It appears to be primarily if not totally a male collection; trophies from battles (one, or several?), as described in Beowulf. The collection includes "boxes and boxes" of items, literally hundreds of individual pieces. Many, I am sure, would have been significant finds by themselves; taken together, this is staggering.

Terry Herbert took his gear
And set out for the field;
He had his hopes, but no idea
Of what the day would yield.
For eighteen years, he’d searched for coins
Through rolling hill and fold,
When in the field of a farmer friend
This summer, he found gold.

The largest Anglo-Saxon hoard
To date, is what he found.
Five kilograms of gold, and more,
Lay buried in the ground.
Gold fittings from the hilts of swords
Inlaid with precious stones
The trophies of a battle?
There are still a few unknowns.

As treasure, art, and history,
This find is just immense.
The Queen, by law, now owns it,
Though she’ll pay a recompense.
And Mr. Herbert’s place is sealed
In the annals of collectors;
Me? I’m investing in whoever sells
His brand of metal detectors.

1 comment:

RBH said...

One of the neat aspects of that is that Herbert is apparently a pensioner (on disability?) living in council housing, and according to the Guardian report he may share in a 1 million pound reward/finder's fee. That's a decent payoff for 18 years of persistence.