Lost Gold of the Dark Ages

     When Terry Herbert, an unemployed 55-year-old veteran treasure hunter, unloaded his 14-year-old metal detector at farmer Fred Johnson’s field in Staffordshire he changed his usual treasure-hunting mantra. We’ll never know whether or not his “Spirits of yester years, take me where the gold appears,” led him to the largest trophy hoard ever discovered but he and his friend Fred will soon split £3.3 million. That’s the estimated value of the 11 pounds of gold, 3 pounds of silver, and numerous jewels in the Staffordshire Hoard which Herbert found in July, 2009.
     The hoard’s location on the old Roman road of Watling Street (now A-5) in the English Midlands will be kept secret until next Sunday (April 18th, 8 pm Eastern time) when the National Geographic Channel airs “Lost Gold of the Dark Ages.”  The program highlights the 1500 objects discovered and the Anglo-Saxon culture that created them. Re-enactors and archeologists united to create vignettes of the Anglo Saxon everyday life and battles and present possible explanations for the hoard’s origin.
     All of the artifacts are associated with males—related to warfare (ornamentation from swords, helmets and shields) or religion (crosses). The 7th century hoard, the only one of Anglo-Saxon origin, appears to be a collection of trophies but whether they were from one battle or many and who buried it or why is unknown. A clue, however, might be found in the Saxon poem Beowulf: ‘One warrior stripped the other, looted Ongentheow’s iron mail-coat, his hard sword-hilt, his helmet too, and carried graith (his stuff) to King Hygelac; he (Hygelac) 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.’

     This re-enactor from the Regia Anglorum choreographed the battle scenes which are featured on the National Geographic program.

     The Latin inscription (with two errors) on the gold strip below reads “Rise up O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee.” (Didn’t happen, the owner of this piece was on the losing side.)

This jeweled cross on the right  was ripped from a larger piece and folded in on itself to contain the jewels.

These zoomorphic (animal) representations which would have been used to decorate armor or weapons show the high level of skill of Anglo Saxon metalworkers.
     My DVR is already set for Sunday’s show (It’s running against SCiFi’s Riverworld.). To read more and view some video clips, check out the National Geographic Channel’s webpage. Next Moonday, we’ll remain in Britain’s Dark Ages but a recent grisly find of unfortunate Heroic Hunks will not be for the faint of heart. ‘Til next Moonday, RitaVF


6 Responses

  1. This is fascinating! Caught only a glimpse on MSN. So glad you tracked down pictures of the find to post. They’re beyond incredible in their detail.

    Being such a disposable society, other than scientific advances, it makes me wonder what tangible items we’ll leave behind for someone to discover in the future.

    Thank you! April 18th I have a date with the telly!

  2. Yep. me, too- a date with the telly- sounds very intriguing.

    AND Runere- we will be leaving land fills of plastic bottles. Sad,

  3. I would love to find some hidden treasure…As a child I use to go metal detecting with my father. We found all kinds of neat treasures but nothing of that kind of value.

    • Hey, girl. On my first archeological dig in Italy. The archaeologists were looking for a wall to a villa north of ROme. They assigned met to a clean area to work. Unfortunately, I found the wall but didn’t realize it until I had dug about a foot down and could see the walls on either side of where I was digging. How embarassing! LOL Rita

  4. This is so interesting. Infact I found the whole blog intriguing. I am an avid historian and prefer the ancients.

    • Thanks, Anna. I’m a history lover also. When my crazy Moondays arrive, I like to share a side of history and culture that can, depending on the Moonday, be quirky or romantic. Rita

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