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GOLD!
September 23, 2009 10:32 PM   Subscribe

A 55-year-old metal detectorist has unearthed the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.

Mr Herbert, who has been metal detecting for 18 years, came across the buried hoard in July after asking a farmer friend if he could search on his land. He said: "I have this phrase that I say sometimes; 'spirits of yesteryear take me where the coins appear', but on that day I changed coins to gold. I don't know why I said it that day, but I think somebody was listening and directed me to it."

Experts said the collection of more than 1,500 pieces - which will be officially classified by a coroner as treasure - is unparalleled in size and may have belonged to Saxon royalty. The hoard, believed to date back to the Seventh Century, contains around 5kg of Gold and 2.5kg of silver, far bigger than previous finds - including the Sutton Hoo burial site.

The National Council for Metal Detecting describes a treasure as "any object that would previously have been treasure trove....Only objects that are less than 300 years old, that are made substantially of gold or silver, that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and whose owners or heirs are unknown will come into this category." A quick overview of previous hoards, as well as a quick reference guide to Anglo Saxon coinage)
posted by puckish (100 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Detectorist? Really? Huh.
posted by bardic at 10:35 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Only objects that are less than at least 300 years old
posted by infinitewindow at 10:38 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Last year I tried to sneak through airport security with a metal detector stuffed down my pants. Their own metal detector detected it, and a wormhole appeared in the universe.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:39 PM on September 23, 2009 [11 favorites]


Wow. This makes me so giddy! I mean really, isn't this kind of what we've all been dreaming about since we were little kids? The dude actually found treasure!
posted by iamkimiam at 10:39 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Great, like the crazy old people that wander around my local park need more encouragement.
posted by mrnutty at 10:40 PM on September 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


Wow!

~*stands corrected, takes back every snide thing he has ever said about owners of metal detectors*~
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:41 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reminded me of Roald Dahl's story about the Mildenhall Treasure.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


From hanging out with archaeologists a few years back, I was endlessly amused to learn that "hoard" is actually a technical term. Old English gets too little respect in the academy, frankly.
posted by felix betachat at 10:47 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


This thread is useless without picts.
Nice post though.
posted by Iron Rat at 10:48 PM on September 23, 2009 [49 favorites]


I hope he stopped digging early and hasn't fucked too much up.
posted by pracowity at 10:49 PM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


15 years have passed, but the Publius Enigma treasure has finally been found!
posted by The Deej at 10:52 PM on September 23, 2009


The Treasure Act of 1996 is an Act of Parliament ... If it is declared to be treasure then the owner must offer the item for sale to a museum at a price set by an independent board of antiquities experts. Only if a museum expresses no interest in the item, or is unable to purchase it, the owner can retain it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_Act_1996
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:53 PM on September 23, 2009


Great story. Are there other examples of amateurs with metal detectors making great finds?
posted by LarryC at 10:53 PM on September 23, 2009


The dude actually found treasure!

Treasure type W, I think.

And all without fighting a single Wight or Wraith. Nicely done!
posted by dersins at 10:57 PM on September 23, 2009 [17 favorites]


If Beowulf has taught us anything, its not to go stealing treasure from hoards of gold. You do NOT want to deal with a pissed off dragon.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:19 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


In cases like this, who owns the gold and treasure? How is the financial worth of the find divided between the "metal detectorist" and the land owner?
posted by Auden at 11:26 PM on September 23, 2009


Hwæt a lucky bugger!
I was invested in mother-earth, the crypt of roots and endings. Child’s-play. I abode there, bided my time: where the mole

shouldered the clogged wheel, his gold solidus; where dry-dust badgers thronged the Roman flues, the long-unlooked-for mansions of our tribe.

Mercian Hymns
posted by Abiezer at 11:38 PM on September 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


. . . buried by Dick Cheney, otherwise known as "Grendel." I kid, I kid. Grendel is just misunderstood.

Seriously though, this is amazing--stuff like this really does redefine our understanding of Anglo-Saxon history--there's really so little left, artifacts like this are inconceivably valuable. And the craftsmen were so talented . . . gorgeous stuff.
posted by exlotuseater at 11:39 PM on September 23, 2009


I feel a great disturbance in marriages. As if millions of wives suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced by husbands pointing at a picture of a doof from Staffordshire and saying, "See? Not so useless a machine now, is it?"
posted by incessant at 11:39 PM on September 23, 2009 [16 favorites]


I really don't understand why they had to lead with the fact that he is a 55-year-old. Is that especially old to set a metal detecting record or especially young?
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:40 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wait, coroners are responsible for treasure classifications?

Doesn't that seem somehow outside the general area of expertise?
posted by alight at 11:42 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


In cases like this, who owns the gold and treasure? How is the financial worth of the find divided between the "metal detectorist" and the land owner?

In most countries, they get absolutely nothing. The find becomes property of the government "for historical and posterity reasons" and the finder and the landowner get squat.

In my own country, Canada, we don't even technically own the oil or minerals under our feet. I can't remember the depth a landowner actually owns, but I remember it was not very much.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:44 PM on September 23, 2009


But the big question is, was he using former Rolling Stone bassist Bill Wyman's Signature Metal Detector?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:48 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, coroners are responsible for treasure classifications?
Hint's in the etymology of the word - officers representing the Crown, which used to include its finanial interests; think this is the last surviving duty of that.
posted by Abiezer at 11:52 PM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wait, coroners are responsible for treasure classifications?

Abiezer, thanks for the etymology- that does help explain it. But I still maintain that the average coroner wouldn't know a hoard from a trove.
posted by alight at 12:00 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sure someone who actually knows will weigh in, but I think they make the legal declaration based on advice from archaeologists or whoever; they just have that formal task.
posted by Abiezer at 12:08 AM on September 24, 2009


Too bad Louis Lamour is dead. He had one of the Sacketts find Roman gold and thus escape from poverty. Louis could have built a whole new saga around Anglo-Saxon treasure.
posted by Cranberry at 12:15 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Staffordshire Hoard

--

About the hoard

THE HOARD WILL NOT BE DECLARED TREASURE UNTIL AFTER THE INQUEST AT 10AM

The Staffordshire Hoard is an unparalleled treasure find dating from Anglo-Saxon times. Both the quality and quantity of this unique treasure are remarkable. The story of how it came to be left in the Staffordshire soil is likely to be more remarkable still.

The Hoard was first discovered in July 2009. The find is likely to spark decades of debate among archaeologists, historians and enthusiasts.

Leslie Webster, Former Keeper, Department of Prehistory and Europe, British Museum, has already said:

This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England… as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries. Absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells.

The Hoard

The Hoard comprises in excess 1,500 individual items. Most are gold, although some are silver. Many are decorated with precious stones. The quality of the craftsmanship displayed on many items is supreme, indicating possible royal ownership.

Stylistically most items appear to date from the seventh century, although there is already debate among experts about when the Hoard first entered the ground.

This was a period of great turmoil. England did not yet exist. A number of kingdoms with tribal loyalties vied with each other in a state of semi-perpetual warfare, with the balance of power constantly ebbing and flowing.

England was also split along religious lines. Christianity, introduced during the Roman occupation then driven to near extinction, was once again the principal religion across most of England

The exact spot where the Hoard lay hidden for a millennium and a half cannot yet be revealed. However we can say that it lay at the heart of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. There is approximately 5 kg of gold and 1.3 kg of silver (Sutton Hoo had 1.66kg of gold).

The hoard was reported to Duncan Slarke, Finds Liaison Officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. With the assistance of the finder, the find-spot has been excavated by archaeologists from Staffordshire County Council, lead by Ian Wykes and Steven Dean, and a team from Birmingham Archaeology, project managed by Bob Burrows and funded by English Heritage. The hoard has been examined at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery by Dr Kevin Leahy, National Finds Adviser with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

The Coroner for South Staffordshire, Andrew Haigh, is today (24th September 2009) holding an inquest on the find to decide whether it is treasure under the Treasure Act 1996. If it is declared treasure, the find becomes the property of the Crown, and museums will have the opportunity to acquire it after it has been valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee. The Committee’s remit is to value all treasure finds at their full market value and the finder and landowner will divide the reward between them. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, and Staffordshire County Council wish to preserve the find for the West Midlands.

The Hoard is remarkable for the extraordinary quantity of pommel caps and hilt plates. There have been 84 pommel caps and 71 sword hilt collars so far identified. These highly decorated items would have adorned a sword or seax – a short sword/knife. Most are of gold and many are beautifully inlaid with garnets. Such elaborate and expensive decoration would have marked out the weapon as the property of the highest echelons of nobility. The discovery of a single sword fitting is a notable event: to find so many together is absolutely unprecedented.

Parts from several highly decorated helmets are likely to be among the finds, although piecing these together is likely to take considerable time and effort. Among the most conspicuous is what appears to be a magnificently decorated cheek-piece decorated with a frieze of running, interlaced, animals. Interestingly, this piece has a relatively low gold content. This may be the result of being specially alloyed to make it more functional and able to withstand blows.

A beautiful figure of an animal is also possibly the crest of a helmet. Large numbers of fragments of "C" sectioned silver edging and reeded strips could also be helmet fittings. Similar fragments, made from base metal, formed part of the Sutton Hoo helmet, found in a rich grave in Suffolk, in 1939.

A strip of gold bearing a Biblical inscription in Latin is one of the most significant and controversial finds. Michelle Brown, Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies, has suggested the style of lettering dates from the seventh or early eighth centuries. The relatively crude lettering may have been the work of someone more used to writing on wax tablets.

The suitably warlike inscription, mis-spelt in places, is probably from the Book of Numbers Ch. 10 v 35 and reads:

Surge domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua ~ "Rise up, o Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face"

The only items that are clearly non-martial are two, or possibly three, crosses. The largest may have been an altar or processional cross. Other than the loss of the settings used to decorate it (some of which are present but detached) it is intact. However it has been folded, possibly to make it fit into a small space prior to burial. This lack of apparent respect shown to this Christian symbol may point to the Hoard being buried by pagans, but Christians were also quite capable of despoiling each other’s shrines.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:40 AM on September 24, 2009 [18 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: Reminded me of Roald Dahl's story about the Mildenhall Treasure.

yeah, I remember reading that. A very touching true story, heres a plot summary online (spoilers): In the afternoon, there was a sudden jolt and the wooden peg that held the plow to the tractor snapped.
posted by memebake at 12:40 AM on September 24, 2009


Also, photos of the finds here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:43 AM on September 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


I kind of feel bad that I want this to be magical treasure that turns the finders into zombies or vampires or whatever and unleashes an ancient nameless evil upon the unsuspecting villagers who were foolish enough to dig too deeply into that foul demense reflected within each of us.

Or something.
posted by Avenger at 12:47 AM on September 24, 2009


"In cases like this, who owns the gold and treasure? How is the financial worth of the find divided between the "metal detectorist" and the land owner?" -- Auden

Poking around among the links posted, it looks like the landowner and the detectorist have agreed to a 50/50 split. The valuation seems to be determined by a "valuation committee" which pays the value to the landowner and the finder, at which point ownership of the treasure passes to "the museum" (not sure what that refers to -- The British Museum?).
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 12:49 AM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


(awsome - thanks for all the information, ursus_comiter)
posted by Auden at 12:50 AM on September 24, 2009


Thanks for the link ursus_comiter, and what a clean well-designed site. Stunning objects and a bit on Anglo-Saxon village life.
posted by Abiezer at 12:50 AM on September 24, 2009


If you go to the British Museum there's entire aisles of hoards displayed along with a little story about the discoverer - in one case a 9 yr old girl for example. The Sutton hoo site objects are there as well as many others. I expect this will end up as just another display in a long aisle of displays.

Sort of makes me think of the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The British Museum has so much that this will just be another crate shipped in and possibly displayed in a dusty corner.
posted by vacapinta at 12:55 AM on September 24, 2009


If a find is considered of national importance, it will be offered to the British Museum. If not, and it's considered of archaeological importance, it will be offered to the registered local museum for the region.

I've summarised that from the Treasure Act 1996 Code of Practice, available here.
posted by ursus_comiter at 1:02 AM on September 24, 2009


Thank you for this, puckish and ursus_comiter. Anglo-Saxon archaeology rocks.
posted by paduasoy at 1:04 AM on September 24, 2009


I got the hoard site link via an archaeology mailing list I'm on from the creator, who's with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. He used a CMS package and built it in 12 hours.
posted by ursus_comiter at 1:04 AM on September 24, 2009


This thread is useless without picts.

he's probably still rolling around in it naked.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:24 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great story. Are there other examples of amateurs with metal detectors making great finds?

Vale of York hoard seen as most important discovery of its kind since 1840.

I discovered priceless Iron Age treasure.

Seems to happen reasonably regularly in the UK. In my home country of Australia they turn up giant nuggets of gold instead (less historically interesting, but still rewarding for the finder).

In most countries, they get absolutely nothing. The find becomes property of the government "for historical and posterity reasons" and the finder and the landowner get squat.

Sounds like a way of guaranteeing that these things will never be found - officially, at least. Imagine if this hoard had ended up on the black market.
posted by rory at 2:02 AM on September 24, 2009


rory, yes.

The UK treasure laws do help reduce nighthawking. There's been a good deal of effort via the Portable Antiquities Scheme as well to get detectorists and archaeologists working together, although there are still incidents.

The site I was digging on this summer had spot of trouble over one weekend when the site director was passing by and saw a couple of men with metal detectors climbing over the wall from the paddock where we had a trench. He asked them what did they think they were doing, and they told him they had permission from the site director. They then ran away when he informed them that, in fact, HE was the site director. Such incidents highlight why there is still a good bit of animosity between the two groups, despite a lot of outreach and lots of good results from team ups between detectorists and archaeologists.
posted by ursus_comiter at 2:13 AM on September 24, 2009


The flickr slideshow is excellent. Supurb. Thanks for filling this out ursus_comiter.
posted by adamvasco at 2:15 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The British Museum has so much that this will just be another crate shipped in and possibly displayed in a dusty corner.

Doubtful that a hoard this large would end up as anything less than a major display, even in the British Museum, but that's a good argument for it staying in Staffordshire, where it could draw people from all over the world to the nearest city museum.
posted by rory at 2:15 AM on September 24, 2009


The flickr slideshow is excellent.

Pity they're not geotagged.
posted by johnny novak at 2:43 AM on September 24, 2009


That flickr gallery is amazing. There's just so much of it, and it's good quality stuff. There was a fair amount of upset in Mercia in the mid-600s, so maybe it's connected to that? Either way, once it's all restored and sorted out, it will be a fantastic thing to see. There are also quite a lot of "strips", maybe they are parts of something larger which has disintegrated, and it will be interesting to see what they make of them.

The British Museum has so much that this will just be another crate shipped in and possibly displayed in a dusty corner.

Doubtful that a hoard this large would end up as anything less than a major display, even in the British Museum, but that's a good argument for it staying in Staffordshire, where it could draw people from all over the world to the nearest city museum.


I expect that if the treasure goes to the British Museum, there will be a big fuss. I think the times when everything got shipped to London by default is past. At least, I hope so.
posted by Sova at 3:27 AM on September 24, 2009


It's often quite dispiriting being of solid British stock. This makes it feel a bit more exotic.
posted by Summer at 3:31 AM on September 24, 2009


This is frankly astonishing.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 3:32 AM on September 24, 2009


Imagine if this hoard had ended up on the black market.

Wait, you mean they can't just send it in to cash4saxongold.com??
posted by Avelwood at 3:35 AM on September 24, 2009 [12 favorites]


Whoops, photoshop disaster!
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 3:38 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dude, wait...I left a whole bunch of stuff in a field in Staffordshire. In uh, April I think. Or May. About 5kg of gold and 1.3kg of silver? Lots of crosses and uh, marital stuff?

Yeah, that shit's mine. Definitely. My stuff.
posted by PlusDistance at 3:55 AM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Illegal arms dump, PlusDistance, doubtless used in countless kin-slayings; the weregild liabilities alone could well leave you forced to sell yourself into slavery amongst the Welsh.
posted by Abiezer at 4:06 AM on September 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


I just saw this on the beeb, pretty damn stunning.
posted by ob at 4:17 AM on September 24, 2009


"This thread is useless without picts."

PICTS OR GTFO
posted by Eideteker at 4:40 AM on September 24, 2009


I hope he stopped digging early and hasn't fucked too much up.

Considering that, just by weight, 5 kg of gold is worth over $160,000, this seems an utterly misplaced snark. It takes a ridiculously honest, consciencious person even to declare having found such a hoard.
posted by Skeptic at 5:08 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is unbeleivably exciting. I don't think anything could compare to the feeling this person must have felt as he started digging. This changes history.

Great story. Are there other examples of amateurs with metal detectors making great finds?

The Middleham jewel was, until today, probably my favourite UK find. Discovered by Ted Seaton in 1985. Later sold for £2.5m.
posted by fire&wings at 5:10 AM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I expect that if the treasure goes to the British Museum, there will be a big fuss. I think the times when everything got shipped to London by default is past. At least, I hope so.
posted by Sova at 11:27 AM


Now that you mention it, this just in:

Thu, 08/27/2009 - 20:50

The vessel being unpacked.
[The Viking vessel being unpacked by conservators at the British Museum, about 1/2 way down. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum]

An important Viking hoard of jewels and coins unearthed in England by a father-and-son team of treasure hunters in 2007 has been acquired by the British Museum and the Yorkshire Museum in York. It will go on display next month. The Vale of York hoard - previously known as the Harrogate hoard - is valued at 1.1 million pounds ($1.8 million) and is at least 1,000 years old. It includes objects from Afghanistan, Ireland, Russia and Scandinavia, underlining the global spread of cultural contacts during medieval times.

posted by vacapinta at 5:17 AM on September 24, 2009


In true Irish Tragedy fashion my wife's great-great uncle in the late 1800's discovered on their family farm in New Brunswick a cache of gold coins he believed was left by French traders. As any good Irishmen would, he took one coin and headed to town for a drink. After several hours his tongue became a bit lubricated and he began boasting of his new found fortune. After sobering up the next day and staggering back to the farm, he found his cabin ransacked and the fortune stolen.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:50 AM on September 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Obviously these items were buried because the people acknowledged that swords are no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses. The days of exploiting the workers by hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society were finished!

I'm always dropping hints to my wife about moving to Europe, proselytizing the architecture and culture, but really, I'm just bitter about the lack of 8th century artifacts in Tallahassee... and that other stuff, too.
posted by empyrean at 5:54 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think they're all fake - just look at the pics, all this fakey "celtic" designs on them and stuff -

Do give him props for makin' lots of em and then buryin' 'em in the dirt, though.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:06 AM on September 24, 2009


Yawn. Wake me when all of Mr Herbert's pets die and his children start talking backward and the whole of the nation is thrown into bleeding rain and wailing specters.
posted by The Whelk at 6:10 AM on September 24, 2009


Alright I take it back.

I always wanted to find a treasure. I guess I'm more bitter about that than I realized. Good on him.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:11 AM on September 24, 2009


Considering that, just by weight, 5 kg of gold is worth over $160,000, this seems an utterly misplaced snark. It takes a ridiculously honest, consciencious person even to declare having found such a hoard.

That's not snark at all, just an honest hope that he hasn't done serious damage to an archaeological site. When you find something like that, the right thing to do is to leave it alone and report it. Treat it like you've found a body -- you don't snatch the jewelry and run off, you step back and call in the experts.
posted by pracowity at 6:15 AM on September 24, 2009


I'm just bitter about the lack of 8th century artifacts in Tallahassee... and that other stuff, too.

There's only a lack of 8th century eastern hemisphere cultural artifacts in Tallahassee, but look no farther than its name for reminents of its ancient past! That said, keep looking!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:19 AM on September 24, 2009


We'll never find all the artifacts scattered throughout North America until they invent the crockery detector.
posted by Mick at 6:35 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I love looking at such pieces, I'm always left wondering when they're linked to statements like, "They were buried by someone expecting to come back for them later." It makes me wonder what happened to their original owners. Why didn't they come back for them? I find such rather brief, encapsulated tragic stories.
posted by Atreides at 6:36 AM on September 24, 2009


Pracowity, the hoard was probably found in a field that's been under plough for centuries. There's not likely to have been a lot of archaeological context worth bothering with other than the existence of the hoard itself and its location, which I'm sure the detectorist recorded quite adequately.

From the hoard site Q&A:
The site has been thoroughly examined using specialist equipment provided by the Home Office and with support from the police’s Tactical Planning Unit, Staffordshire county council and Birmingham Archaeology. The site is now considered sterile, meaning experts are satisfied every item able to be recovered from the immediate area has now been found; it is now being monitored by the police.

I read that as saying that the site was gone over thoroughly with not just metal detectors, but probably also with various types of geophysics equipment that would have located any sort of foundations, ditches, etc. I wouldn't have expected any such things to show up, as hoards of that size really do tend to have actually been hoards. Someone, centuries ago, had gotten a bunch of loot somehow and they hid it until they could recover it later. But they never came back. So, it's all just a bunch of baubles in a hole in the ground.

To me, the context of the location would be the interesting bit - whether it's near any known Anglo-Saxon era occupations, roads or waterways. That information isn't going to be made available for some time though, I expect.
posted by ursus_comiter at 6:48 AM on September 24, 2009


"I once had a sophisticated finding device. I lost it." ~ Ernest P. Worrel, "Ernest Rides Again."
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:06 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


the hoard was probably found in a field that's been under plough for centuries.

I'm sure you're right, but if the gold was still all in one spot and no one has been turning up bits of it over the years, there's a chance that it was buried below the reach of the ploughs. You never know what else you might find -- maybe absolutely nothing, but maybe some old organic material (documents, fabrics, animal and plant matter, etc.) that might not look like much more than dust to an excited pot hunter with his eye on a heap of gold. Was it under someone's floor? Under a certain rock? Was it just dumped like a safe deposit box or was anything ceremonial involved?
posted by pracowity at 7:11 AM on September 24, 2009


Look past the squawking gull
Look past the volleyball
Ignore the mountain of discarded folderol

'Cause I've got something to help you understand
Something waiting there beneath the land
My metal detector Is with me all of the time
I'm the inspector over the mine

They Might Be Giants
posted by Fleebnork at 7:16 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The question on everyone's mind is, of course, does the haul contain any coconuts?

What? Mercia's a temperate zone.
posted by The Bellman at 7:29 AM on September 24, 2009


This thread is useless without picts.

I don't think the Picts had anything to do with this treasure. We're talking Anglo-Saxons, here.
posted by webmutant at 7:32 AM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anyone else get the feeling that this is the side story in some grander picture? Like there was some sort of whirlwind adventure/ love story going on around this guy, and he, acting as a kooky background character intent on finding buried treasure, may have dropped a line or two of wisdom to the leads before returning to his futile search. And now, in the final reel, as all the threads have come together, and the evil corporation was thwarted and the two star crossed lovers realized they needed each other after all that right before the credits roll, we get the aside of "Oh yeah, the crazy guy with the metal detector? He found a "buried treasure the likes of which have never been seen before!"

I figure Happy Madison is probably involved in this somehow.
posted by quin at 7:32 AM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Someone needs to invent a metal detecting robot.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 AM on September 24, 2009


God bless our industrious ancestors for making so much shit and then throwing it away or burying it for us to find. That’s why I litter everyday, providing employment for future archaeologists everywhere. I am sure they will thank me later.
posted by Think_Long at 8:01 AM on September 24, 2009


You know I loved the movies and think they were fabulous and doubt very seriously this discovery could have made any real noticeable difference in the aesthetic, but is anyone else curious about how Middle Earth might have looked differently had we had access to this hoard prior to filming?

Also Anglo-Saxon knotwork looks like a pretzel when you only one of them.
posted by jefficator at 8:35 AM on September 24, 2009


I’m always curious when middle-earth is involved.
posted by Think_Long at 8:50 AM on September 24, 2009


I found a silver dime from 1901 in my field a couple years ago, it is
a "barber" dime and looks like an old roman coin.
I am still pretty stoked by it and it is easily worth $1.20
posted by Iron Rat at 9:09 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abeizer, that's one of those comments I wish I could multi-fave.

Metafilter: where the mole shouldered his clogged wheel
posted by mwhybark at 9:30 AM on September 24, 2009


The suitably warlike inscription, mis-spelt in places, is probably from the Book of Numbers Ch. 10 v 35 and reads:

Surge domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua ~ "Rise up, o Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face"


Interesting. This quote from Numbers is sung (in Hebrew) during Jewish worship when the Torah is taken from the ark. Hmm...Raiders of the Lost Ark indeed....
posted by ericbop at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2009


Wow, what an amazing find. Thanks for the post!

I liked the site's comment on the crumpled-up cross (to avoid a flamefest, I'm not quoting it here). Although, really, it looks like you could straighten it out without any damage, what with gold being so malleable. I can imagine the person who folded it thinking "Oh shit, the attackers are almost here ... gotta get this cross into the chest somehow ... I'll just fold it gently and we can flatten it out later."
posted by Quietgal at 9:48 AM on September 24, 2009


We'll never find all the artifacts scattered throughout North America until they invent the crockery detector.

Poking around an old stone foundation with my own metal detector, I came upon the rubbish pile where old cans and patent medicine bottles and yes, crocks, were chucked in the years before trash pickup. You can't beat New England farmland for Antique Garbage. Old metal rubbish sometimes keeps good company.


I found my own hoard.


Not as fancy as the OP, but the most fun I've had since I was ten or so.
posted by Lou Stuells at 10:24 AM on September 24, 2009


The site I was digging on this summer had spot of trouble over one weekend when the site director was passing by and saw a couple of men with metal detectors climbing over the wall from the paddock where we had a trench. He asked them what did they think they were doing, and they told him they had permission from the site director. They then ran away when he informed them that, in fact, HE was the site director. Such incidents highlight why there is still a good bit of animosity between the two groups, despite a lot of outreach and lots of good results from team ups between detectorists and archaeologists.

Couldn't the site director at least try to end it with fisticuffs on top of a moving train?
posted by mattholomew at 10:44 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


> This is unbeleivably exciting. I don't think anything could compare to the feeling this person must have felt as he started digging.

It must be kind of bittersweet for him, though...I mean, wouldn't you hang up the ol' detector for good after this? The usual assortment of bottle caps and coins just isn't going to cut it, and even if you find a gold ring or something it's going to pale in comparison.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:52 AM on September 24, 2009


I just did the math and found that 1345 would be a slightly better than average roll for "20d100 Art Objects". Statistically, about 45% of the items would most likely be gold dragon combs with inset ruby eyes.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:53 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I was about eleven I bought a pewter colonial replica coin of some sort at Old Sturbridge Village, and then secretly buried it in among the lilac roots in my back yard, where my buddy Jason and I spent a lot of time playing with our Star Wars figures. We lived in a fairly historical section of Massachusetts, and had recently been on a school trip to somewhere that had neat displays of antiques (House of Seven Gables?) and Jason was just primed for this sort of exploitation.

He came over and we played for a while, until I said, as nonchalant as possible, "what is this?" and pulled out the coin, crusted with mud.

Boy was he mad when I finally told him the truth.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:05 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


That’s why I litter everyday, providing employment for future archaeologists everywhere.

If you are littering solid gold finery, it probably won't sit on the ground long enough to get dusty much less buried.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 11:33 AM on September 24, 2009


Hoard shines light on Dark Ages
posted by homunculus at 12:47 PM on September 24, 2009


Long-term investment in gold? Can only be one guy, but he never mentioned burying the stuff was a viable alternative to more traditional storage methods.
posted by davemee at 12:57 PM on September 24, 2009


Thank goodness I convinced Mr. Herbert that the small smooth azure stone was just a local mineral deposit and not, say a rare faerie-made jewel that came loose from the profoundly powerful Crown Of The Raven Ring.

Why you say? Well, anything faerie-made is pretty hard to come by ever since James the 1st burned down all the scared bowers and gardens and buried the Great Duns.

Sell it? Oh no no no. I've got bigger plans. Don't worry, you'll know all about it by the next moon.

Everyone will know.
posted by The Whelk at 1:09 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pracowity:
That's not snark at all, just an honest hope that he hasn't done serious damage to an archaeological site. When you find something like that, the right thing to do is to leave it alone and report it. Treat it like you've found a body -- you don't snatch the jewelry and run off, you step back and call in the experts.


As it turns out, that's what he did. He uncovered several of the artifacts, then he and the landowner promptly called in the authorities to report the find - upon which they carried out a full archaelogical excavation, which Terry was involved with. According to the experts, they now consider the site sterile, i.e. they've excavated anything of interest or value, but are keeping the location secret for the privacy of the landowner. Given he's about to come into half a million quid or more, I can't exactly blame him.

This is a find as important as Sutton Hoo or the Lindisfarne gospels for learning more about 7th century Anglo Saxons; i.e. very. The odds of it ending up forgotten on some dusty backshelf of the British Museum is basically nil.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:14 PM on September 24, 2009


I can't snark at this. It's awesome.
posted by chairface at 4:50 PM on September 24, 2009


Thanks for the link, memebake. (That Roald Dahl site is mine.) I too immediately thought of the Mildenhall Treasure. Here's a link to the British Museum site which shows some of the pieces from that haul. I've been fortunate enough to see it in person, and it's just amazing. Mr Herbert's story gave me shivers too.
posted by web-goddess at 5:07 PM on September 24, 2009


It takes a ridiculously honest, consciencious person even to declare having found such a hoard.

not so much, actually...the market for ancient gold objects is small enough that if you try to move some objects nobody has seen before you pretty much will get caught, and will go to jail...there was a case i read about a few years back (the new yorker, maybe?) where a guy found a hoard of around 175 gold and silver coins from roman times, not even particularly rare varieties (ie nothing unique) he moved about a dozen of them through coin dealers before getting busted, going to jail, and not getting to split any money with the land owner. serious treasure hunters generally familiarize themselves with the rules.

also...awesome pix! i love the milling behind the garnets...beautiful stuff...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:09 AM on September 25, 2009


This is totally awesome. I will make one iota less fun of 'moonMan for wanting to go around with a metal detector. Except for the scuba suit/metal detector combo he has planned - I'll still make fun of him for that since he can't swim.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:59 PM on September 25, 2009


The Staffordshire hoard is spectacular. But now the countryside will be overrun with metal detectorists.
posted by ericb at 2:38 PM on September 25, 2009


The hoard was reported to Duncan Slarke, Finds Liaison Officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Here's their website:
"The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past.

This website provides background information on the Portable Antiquities Scheme, news articles, events listings and access to our database of objects and images."
posted by ericb at 2:57 PM on September 25, 2009


...at which point ownership of the treasure passes to "the museum" (not sure what that refers to -- The British Museum?).

The hoard is heading there for valuation, but it's not clear from this article that it will be housed there.
"A day after the discovery of Anglo-Saxon treasure was announced to the public, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery put a selection of the still-earth-covered objects on display until 13 October. Thereafter, the Staffordshire hoard will head to the British Museum where the artefacts will undergo forensic study before being sold and the proceeds divided – as per the 1996 Treasure Act – between the finder of the haul and the owner of the land."*
posted by ericb at 3:03 PM on September 25, 2009


Terry Herbert describes what it was like to find the treasure hoard [video | 01:43].
posted by ericb at 3:04 PM on September 25, 2009


...but it's not clear from this article that it will be housed there...

As has been mentioned above, the 'Treasure Act 1996' stipulates that the 'treasure' be offered for sale to museums. I suspect that the British Museum stands a good chance in having the funds to purchase the hoard.
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on September 25, 2009


We'll never find all the artifacts scattered throughout North America until they invent the crockery detector.

Or, dig tunnels under Boston: The Archaeology of the Central Artery Project (aka "The Big Dig").
posted by ericb at 3:23 PM on September 25, 2009


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