Too bad that the metal detectors got greedy and fell afoul of the authorities. The Guardian has pictures and the story.
On a sunny day in June 2015 amateur metal detectorists George Powell and Layton Davies were hunting for treasure in fields at a remote spot in Herefordshire.
The pair had done their research carefully and were focusing on a promising area just north of Leominster, close to high land and a wood with intriguing regal names â€“ Kings Hall Hill and Kings Hall Covert.
But in their wildest dreams they could not have imagined what they were about to find when the alarm on one of their detectors sounded and they began to dig.
Powell and Davies unearthed a hoard hidden more than 1,000 years ago, almost certainly by a Viking warrior who was part of an army that retreated into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia after being defeated by Alfred the Great in 878.
There was gold jewellery including a chunky ring, an arm bracelet in the shape of a serpent and a small crystal ball held by thin strips of gold that would have been worn as a pendant. Beneath the gold were silver ingots and an estimated 300 silver coins.
The law is clear: such finds should be reported to the local coroner within 14 days and failure to do so risks an unlimited fine and up to three months in prison. Any reward may be split between the finder, land owner and land occupier.
Powell and Davies, experienced detectorists from south Wales, chose a different route. Two days later they went to a Cardiff antiques centre called the Pumping Station and showed some examples of their find to coin dealer Paul Wells. He immediately knew they were very special.
The crystal ball pendant turned out to be the oldest item, probably dating from the 5th or 6th century, while the ring and arm bracelet are thought to be 9th- century. They were described as priceless in court. Nothing like the arm bracelet has ever been seen by modern man before.
But if anything, the coins turned out to be even more significant. Among them were extremely rare â€œtwo emperorâ€ coins depicting two Anglo-Saxon rulers: King Alfred of Wessex and Ceolwulf II of Mercia. They are important because they give a fresh glimpse of how Mercia and Wessex were ruled in the 9th century at about the time England was morphing into a single united kingdom.
Still, the pair did not contact the authorities. Instead Powell got in touch with another treasure hunter, Simon Wicks from East Sussex, and two weeks after the find he presented himself at upmarket coin auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb in Mayfair, central London.
Wicks put a selection of the coins found in Herefordshire, including a pair of the two emperors, in front of one its leading experts. The expert gasped when he saw the coins and suggested the two emperors could be worth Â£100,000 each.
Meanwhile, whispers that Powell and Davies had struck gold had begun to circulate and on 6 July â€“ 33 days after their discovery â€“ the Herefordshire finds liaison officer, Peter Reavill, contacted Powell and Davies and gently asked if they had anything to tell him about.
Powell initially replied with a firm denial but they eventually handed over the gold jewellery and an ingot. However, they insisted they had only found a couple of damaged coins that they did not need to declare.
But the net was closing in. Police visited Wellsâ€™ house and he showed them five coins from the hoard that had been stitched into his magnifying glass case. When he was arrested he said: â€œI knew it would come to this.â€
The Guardian reports on new information on findings from the Essex grave of a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince.
Archaeologists on Thursday will reveal the results of years of research into the burial site of a rich, powerful Anglo-Saxon man found at Prittlewell in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
When it was first discovered in 2003, jaws dropped at how intact the chamber was. But it is only now, after years of painstaking investigation by more than 40 specialists, that a fuller picture of the extraordinary nature of the find is emerging.
Sophie Jackson, director of research at Museum of London Archaeology (Mola), said it could be seen as a British equivalent to Tutankhamunâ€™s tomb, although different in a number of ways.
For one thing it is in free-draining soil, meaning everything organic has decayed. â€œIt was essentially a sandpit with stains,â€ she said. But what a sandpit. â€œIt was one of the most significant archaeological discoveries weâ€™ve made in this country in the last 50 to 60 years.â€
The research reveals previously concealed objects, paints a picture of how the chamber was constructed and offers new evidence of how Anglo-Saxon Essex was at the forefront of culture, religion and exchange with other countries across the North Sea.
It also throws up a possible name for the powerful Anglo-Saxon figure for whom the grave was built.
Previously, the favourite suggestion was a king of the East Saxons, Saebert, son of Sledd. But he died about 616 and scientific dating now suggests the burial was in the late-6th century, about 580.
That means it could be Saebertâ€™s younger brother Seaxa although, since the body has dissolved and only tiny fragments of his tooth enamel remain, it is impossible to know for certain.
Gold foil crosses were found in the grave which indicate he was a Christian, a fact which has also surprised historians.
Sue Hirst, Molaâ€™s Anglo-Saxon burial expert, said that date was remarkably early for the adoption of Christianity in England, coming before Augustineâ€™s mission to convert the country from paganism.
But it could be explained because Seaxaâ€™s mother Ricula was sister to king Ethelbert of Kent who was married to a Frankish Christian princess called Bertha. â€œRicula would have brought close knowledge of Christianity from her sister-in-law.â€
Recreating the design of the burial chamber has been difficult because the original timbers decayed leaving only stains and impressions of the structure in the soil.
But it has been possible. The Mola team estimates it would have taken 20 to 25 men working five or six days in different groups to build the chamber and would have involved felling 13 oak trees.
â€œIt was a significant communal effort,â€ said Jackson. â€œYouâ€™ve got to see this burial chamber as a piece of theatre. It is sending out a very strong message to the people who come and look at it and the stories they take away from it. It says â€˜we are very important people and we are burying one of our most important peopleâ€™.â€
Objects identified in the grave include a wooden lyre â€“ the ancient worldâ€™s most important stringed instrument â€“ which had almost entirely decayed apart from fragments of wood and metal fittings preserved in a soil stain.
Micro-excavation in the lab has revealed it was made from maple, with ash tuning pegs, and had garnets in two of the lyre fittings which are almandines, most likely from the Indian subcontinent or Sri Lanka. It had also been broken in two at some point and put back together.
The burial chamber was discovered only because of a proposal to widen the adjacent road. It was fully excavated and the research has been undertaken by experts in a range of subjects including Anglo-Saxon art, ancient woodworking, soil science and engineering.
The new Mola findings are published on Thursday ahead of a long-awaited new permanent display of Prittlewell princely burial objects at Southend Central Museum. It opens on Saturday and will include objects such as a gold belt buckle, a Byzantine flagon, coloured glass vessels, an ornate drinking horn and a decorative hanging bowl. People will also be able to explore the burial chamber online at www.prittlewellprincelyburial.org.
Essex has sometimes been seen as something of an Anglo-Saxon backwater but the Prittlewell burial chamber suggests otherwise.
â€œWhat it really tells us,â€ said Hirst, â€œis that the people in Essex, in the kingdom of the East Saxons at this time, are really at the forefront of the political and religious changes that are going on.â€
The people we call Anglo-Saxons were actually immigrants from northern Germany and southern Scandinavia. Bede, a monk from Northumbria writing some centuries later, says that they were from some of the most powerful and warlike tribes in Germany.
Bede names three of these tribes: the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. There were probably many other peoples who set out for Britain in the early fifth century, however. Batavians, Franks and Frisians are known to have made the sea crossing to the stricken province of â€˜Britanniaâ€™.
The collapse of the Roman empire was one of the greatest catastrophes in history. Britain, or â€˜Britanniaâ€™, had never been entirely subdued by the Romans. In the far north â€“ what they called Caledonia (modern Scotland) â€“ there were tribes who defied the Romans, especially the Picts. The Romans built a great barrier, Hadrianâ€™s Wall, to keep them out of the civilised and prosperous part of Britain.
As soon as Roman power began to wane, these defences were degraded, and in AD 367 the Picts smashed through them. Gildas, a British historian, says that Saxon war-bands were hired to defend Britain when the Roman army had left. So the Anglo-Saxons were invited immigrants, according to this theory, a bit like the immigrants from the former colonies of the British empire in the period after 1945.
One of the most mysterious and celebrated treasures from Anglo-Saxon England, the Alfred Jewel is believed to be more than 1,000 years old. It was discovered in 1693 in a field at North Petherton, Somerset.
Made of enamel and quartz, this remarkable jewel was made in the reign of Alfred the Great with an inscription â€œAELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCANâ€ which means â€œAlfred ordered me made.â€ It is an unusual example of Anglo-Saxon jewelry because it begs all kinds of questions about where the materials came from.
The two-and-a-half-inch long jewel made of filigreed gold has an image of a man, which many historians believe is a picture of Christ. Shaped like a teardrop, it was once believed that this jewel was a pendant worn around the neck. However, this would mean that the image of Christ would be permanently hung upside-down.
Another theory is that it might have been the centerpiece of a royal crown but the setting seemed inappropriate for that purpose. According to Webster, the back of the jewel is a flat gold plate which is engraved with either a plant motif or an image of the Tree of Life.
Over the years, many suggestions have been made about the function of this jewel. The most common is that it was a pointer to use for reading manuscripts. It is assumed that it may have been Alfredâ€™s gift to the abbey, which he founded at Athelney in 878 after his defeat of the Vikings.
A description of the jewel was first published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1698. Colonel Nathaniel Palmer bequeathed the jewel to Oxford University and it was on display in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In 2015, after 297 years away, the Alfred jewel was put on display for one month at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton Castle.
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found. Discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England, on 5 July 2009, it consists of over 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character and contains no objects specific to female uses. The artefacts have tentatively been dated to the 7th or 8th centuries, placing the origin of the items in the time of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.
My guess is that it is a handle for some sort of small personal tool or weapon. There is a pommel. The problems with my theory are that the grip shaft is very short and would have to have been made to be held between two fingers and the cup-shaped hilt is very delicate and fragile. Might it be the handle for one of those scrapers for erasing your mistake when you are scribing a manuscript?
Metal detecting is a popular working man’s hobby here in the United States as well, but Americans can expect to find some coins or possibly Civil War relics. In Britain, there is a lot more history, and a lot older and more valuable treasure lying right in the fields.
The Daily Mail has terrific coverage of a spectacular new find.
The largest haul of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found has been discovered by a metal detector enthusiast on farmland in Staffordshire, it was revealed today.
Experts say the hoard, which is at least as significant as any other treasure from the Anglo-Saxon era ever unearthed, is worth millions and could have belonged to a king.
The discovery of at least 1,345 different items, thought to date back to the seventh century, is expected to redefine perceptions of the period.
Terry Herbert, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, came across the collection as he searched a field near his home with his trusty 14-year-old detector and is now in line for a seven-figure sum.
It had been hidden for more than 1,300 years but was recently thrown up by ploughing and amazingly, some was just sitting on the top of the ground.
Experts have already examined the 1,345 items but another 56 clods of earth have been X-rayed and are known to hold more metal artefacts, meaning the figure is likely to rise to around 1,500.
At least 650 are gold, weighing more than than 5kg, and another 530 are silver, weighing around 1kg. This is far bigger than previous finds – including the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk.
Many of the items in the hoard are warfare paraphernalia inlaid with precious stones, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates.
Experts say it is the best example of Anglo-Saxon workmanship they have ever seen and may have belonged to Saxon royalty, possibly the King of Mercia.’
Archaeology expert Leslie Webster, who used to work at the British Museum, said: ‘(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells.’
It was officially declared treasure by a coroner today, which means the haul will now be valued by committee of experts before being offered for sale.
They may take more than a year to value the collection and, given its scale, the financial worth will be massive.
Once a valuation and sale is complete, its market value will be split between Mr Herbert, who is unemployed, and the owner of the farmland where it was found.
Roger Bland, head of portable antiquities and treasure at the British Museum: ‘I can’t say anything other than we expect it to be a seven-figure sum.’
Jonathan Shaw in Harvard Magazine explains that studies of population DNA suggest that an effective policy of sexual apartheid practiced by the newly arrived Anglo-Saxons could have eliminated British male Y chromosomal DNA in as few as five generations. The Spanish conquistadores in Colombia and the Vikings in Scotland and Ireland left similar DNA patterns, in which the male heredity of the modern population is overwhelming traceable to the invaders, but female mitochondrial DNA predominantly descends from the conquered population.
Moral? Successful invaders get the girls. At some level, history amounts to a contest over who gets to reproduce his DNA, and who does not.
There are no signs of a massacre–no mass graves, no piles of bones. Yet more than a million men vanished without a trace. They left no descendants. Historians know that something dramatic happened in England just as the Roman empire was collapsing. When the Anglo-Saxons ï¬rst arrived in that northern outpost in the fourth century a.d.–whether as immigrants or invaders is debated–they encountered an existing Romano-Celtic population estimated at between 2 million and 3.7 million people. Latin and Celtic were the dominant languages. Yet the ensuing cultural transformation was so complete, says Goelet professor of medieval history Michael McCormick, that by the eighth century, English civilization considered itself completely Anglo-Saxon, spoke only Anglo-Saxon, and thought that everyone had â€œcome over on the Mayï¬‚ower, as it were.â€ This extraordinary change has had ramiï¬cations down to the present, and is why so many people speak English rather than Latin or Celtic today. But how English culture was completely remade, the historical record does not say.
Then, in 2002, scientists found a genetic signature in the DNA of living British men that hinted at an untold story of Anglo-Saxon conquest. The researchers were sampling Y-chromosomes, the sex chromosome passed down only in males, from men living in market towns named in the Domesday Book of 1086. Working along an east-west transect through central England and Wales, the scientists discovered that the mix of Y-chromosomes characteristic of men in the English towns was very different from that of men in the Welsh towns: Wales was the primary Celtic holdout in Western Britannia during the ascendance of the Anglo-Saxons. Using computer analysis, the researchers explored how such a pattern could have arisen and concluded that a massive replacement of the native fourth-century male Britons had taken place. Between 50 percent and 100 percent of indigenous English men today, the researchers estimate, are descended from Anglo-Saxons who arrived on Englandâ€™s eastern coast 16 centuries ago. So what happened?