The collection was found "with his trusty 14-year-old detector" by Terry Herbert, 55, of Burntwood in Staffordshire, who has been metal detecting for 18 years. He came across the hoard as he searched land belonging to a farmer friend. Not surprisingly, the exact location has not been disclosed but it is understood to be near the Lichfield border in South Staffordshire in the region of the finder's home.
Duncan Slarke, finds liaison officer for Staffordshire, was the first professional archaeologist to see the group:
"Nothing could have prepared me for that," he said. "I saw boxes full of gold, items exhibiting the very finest Anglo-Saxon workmanship. "This is absolutely phenomenal. "It is a hugely important find - the most important one that I have dealt with, but this has got to rank as one of the biggest in the country.""Boxes of gold" - so was this another case of the whole lot being hoiked out by the finder? well, so it would appear ('Golden dreams for man who found Anglo-Saxon hoard'):
Terry Herbert, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, unearthed his find on the afternoon of July 5 this year. The 55-year-old spent the next five days scouring a stretch of Staffordshire farmland and digging up pieces of an archaeological puzzle already sparking debate among experts. He said: "Imagine you're at home and somebody keeps putting money through your letterbox, that was what it was like. "I was going to bed and in my sleep I was seeing gold items. "As soon as I closed my eyes I saw gold patterns, I didn't think it was ever going to end. "I just kept thinking of what I might find the next day."So Mr Herbert spent five whole days digging up his lucrative loot ("money through the letterbox") before he decided to report the find? The moment he first uncovered a gold object that was not a coin, the object was potential Treasure. That's what the law says. Sadly once again the archaeologists would not have got there before he'd already spent five days removing items. What kind of records did he keep?
Mr Herbert is unemployed and therefore has a lot of free time to go out with his metal detector. He said about his hobby:
"People laugh at metal detectorists. I've had people go past and go 'beep beep, he's after pennies'. "Well no, we are out there to find this kind of stuff and it is out there".Yes, it is out there, but is it "managing" the British archaeological heritage to dig up every last piece of ancient metal for a cash reward in such a manner?
Anyway what's in this hoard? The Belfast Telegraph somehow was able to tell the world well before the other newspapers found out, its dismounted sword fittings, bits of helmets, some cruciform objects nd an inscribed gold strip which is one of the most significant and controversial finds. One expert believes that the style of lettering indicates it is from the seventh or early eighth centuries, while another dates it to the eighth or ninth centuries. The inscription, mis-spelt in places, is thought to be from the Book of Numbers, Chapter 10 verse 35. The translation reads: "Rise up, o Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face".
I guess the interpretation hinges on the dating of the latest object in the hoard (e.g., the inscribed strip) - IF of course that inscribed strip was indeed associated with the other finds, the fact that this group was dug up in the way it was may hinder making that association - this could have been a spot where items were deposited over a umber of decades (a shrine and war booty for example). No doubt we will be hearing more about this find in the near future.
Now apart from the purchase price, how many resources is full publication of that little lot going to use up, how long will it last (publishing the Sutton Hoo objects took a mere forty years), and how much will it cost the nation?
So Britain paid out 1.1 million to have the Vale of York Viking Hoard dug up univited by treasure hunters, now how many million for this "Staffordshire Hoard"? How many millions annually will the UK be paying the people exploiting the archaeological record as a source of easy cash as more and more individuals take up metal detecting because of news like this? It seems to me that British archaeology is getting itself deeper and deeper into a cleft stick with these finds, coming out of the ground in increasing frequency - where will it all end?