Staffordshire Hoard secrets revealed in landmark publication
After a decade of research, a new book will delve into the secrets of the Staffordshire Hoard, which was discovered in a field in Lichfield in 2009.
Following a decade of intensive conservation and expert research, a new book available from November will reveal the importance of the spectacular Staffordshire Hoard to our knowledge of British history.
The Hoard is significant for enhancing our understanding of the years 600-675 AD, a particularly turbulent time in Anglo-Saxon history. Many fascinating individual discoveries are uncovered which transform ideas about the early Anglo-Saxon period.
A decade of research
Ever since the Hoard was discovered in a field near Lichfield, Staffordshire on July 5th 2009, it has captured the imagination of an international audience.
Its discovery led to a decade of research, conferences and innovative conservation techniques - all funded by Historic England with support from the joint owners Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and the museums which care for the collection, Birmingham Museums Trust and The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.
Details revealed in new book
The results are now brought together in a beautiful new book, published by the Society of Antiquaries of London. The book will be available to buy from November 1st and, along with a comprehensive database hosted by the Archaeology Data Service, will give the public unparalleled access to the Hoard.
Led by Barbican Research Associates, it has been written by a team of specialists in Anglo-Saxon archaeology and history, together with expert conservators, and is illustrated throughout with full-colour photographs, maps and explanatory drawings.
Key chapters discuss the decoration and meaning of the Hoard’s intricate ornament, the techniques of Anglo-Saxon craftsmen, the religious and historical background, and hoarding practice in Britain and Europe, to place this most exceptional find in context.
What is the Hoard?
The majority of the Staffordshire Hoard treasure was crafted between the mid-sixth and mid-seventh centuries AD and buried between 650-675 AD. It is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever discovered. Although fragmented and damaged when found, there is nothing comparable in terms of content and quantity in the UK or mainland Europe.
There are more than 600 significant objects found in 4600 fragments of mainly war gear, which combine to a total of nearly 4 kilos of gold, 1.7 kilos of silver and thousands of cloisonné garnets.
The greatest mystery of the Hoard remains unsolved as it is unknown who buried the treasure. But experts believe it could have belonged to a high-status individual, possibly an elite warrior or someone from the royal household.
The Hoard contains material from East Anglia and Northumbria, kingdoms which suffered significant defeats at the hands of Mercia. Some are closely related, in their style and superb quality, to finds from the famous Sutton Hoo royal burial. In all of this, the Hoard offers vivid confirmation of the widespread and brutal events described in near-contemporary written sources.
The Hoard is largely composed of fittings stripped from swords and other magnificent battle gear, reflecting the written record of fierce warfare between rival kingdoms in the seventh century, and the growing power of the kingdom of Mercia in which it was found, under the militarily dominant pagan king Penda (c. 633–655) and his sons.
The elaborately decorated sword-fittings, gilded silver helmet, and other superb trappings of the battlefield have now been identified as coming from different regions, representing the forces of some of the warring kingdoms across England.
Links with Christianity
The Hoard belongs to the period when Christianity was gradually becoming established in England. Remarkably, the Hoard contains convincing evidence of precious Christian objects being carried as talismans into battle, presumably by priests.
Though few in number, some of these spectacular objects are unique, and include the earliest known examples of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical metalwork, showing it to be not only of the highest quality, but also extraordinarily innovative in fusing traditional motifs with the new Christian objects.
The reasons why the Hoard was assembled and why it was buried remain unknowable, but it is a fascinating mystery.
In 2009 we received a rather breathless call from an officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme saying that something astonishing had been unearthed in an ordinary field near Lichfield. What followed exceeded all expectations and over the past 10 years we have been proud to fund the research into the Hoard that has allowed us to learn just what our 7th Century ancestors were capable of. The range of fascinating objects discovered has given us an extraordinary insight into Saxon craftsmanship and culture and this new monograph gives in-depth detail of everything we know about this spectacular discovery.
Where can you see the Hoard?
The Staffordshire Hoard is on permanent display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. The displays include reconstructions of the Staffordshire Hoard helmet, which were revealed in 2018.
The collection was acquired with donations from members of the public following a campaign led by the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art. The acquisition was also generously supported by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Birmingham City Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Wartski, and many other trusts and foundations, and corporate philanthropy.