WMID-0B5416: Staffordshire Hoard

Rights Holder: The British Museum
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Unique ID: WMID-0B5416

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Circumstances of discovery

The Staffordshire hoard was discovered on the 5th of July, 2009 by Mr Terry Herbert while metal detecting on arable land (now set down to grass) at a site in Staffordshire, land owned and farmed by Mr Fred Johnson. After five days detecting on the site Mr Herbert contacted Mr Duncan Slarke, the local Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Mr Slarke subsequently visited the finder at his home and prepared an initial list of 244 bags of finds. These were taken to Birmingham Museum and HM Coroner informed. Duncan Slarke also contacted the relevant archaeological authorities including the Staffordshire Historic Environment Record, the Potteries Museum, Stoke on Trent, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, and the Portable Antiquities & Treasure Department at the British Museum. A meeting was held in Birmingham on 21st of July at which it was agreed that an archaeological excavation should be carried out and funding decided. This came from English Heritage and Staffordshire County Council. It was also agreed that one of the Portable Antiquities Scheme's National Advisors, Dr Kevin Leahy, should compile the hand list of finds which forms the basis of this report.

The site was visited on the 22nd of July by archaeologists from Staffordshire County Council in the company of Mr Slarke. A further 24 objects were recovered and their positions plotted. An excavation on the site was undertaken by a small team from Birmingham Archaeology between 24th of July and the 21st of August assisted by Mr Herbert, the original finder. The excavation resulted in the discovery of a further 571 bagged finds. Subsequent to the excavation Mr Herbert has continued to monitor the site and has found a further three bags of finds.

The hand list of finds has now been completed as a Microsoft Access database. It became apparent that some of the bags contained multiple finds each of which required a unique number and record. Staff at Birmingham Museum started the process of boxing the finds in conservation grade materials. Some analytical work has been carried out using XRF (x-ray fluorescence) equipment and the lumps of earth have been x-rayed.
Finds from the site

The hand list (Appendix 2) contains 1345 records, while there are a further 37 records in Appendix 3 of objects which are not considered to be part of the hoard and therefore not eligible to be considered as Treasure.

The finds can be attributed as follows:

Mr Herbert (original discovery and subsequent finds) 537 items
Staffordshire County Council 37 items
Birmingham Archaeology 807 items

Mr Herbert also recovered lumps of earth which gave a response on his metal detector. X ray examination has shown these to contain large numbers of gold and silver fragments together with some objects. A decision is required as to whether these lumps should be investigated further prior to valuation.

The metallic composition of the finds

Most of the material recovered was found to be of gold or silver alloys, there being 655 items of gold with a total mass (including, at this stage, much earth) of around five kilograms (11 lb). There were 545 pieces of silver with a mass of around 1.3 kilograms (2.8 lb). Ninety items were found that appeared to be made from copper alloy although some difficulties were experienced in distinguishing between copper alloys and base silver. This problem will be resolved by the use of XRF analysis but, in the present context, the silver content is immaterial as objects made from base alloys which formed part of the original deposit are considered to be Treasure.
Alloys used

XRF analysis has been carried out at the Birmingham Museum on a number of objects from the deposit. This work confirmed the visual identification of the alloys as gold and silver. The analysis of some of the more significant items is as follows:

Item no. Description Location of sample Au Ag Cu
652 (T45) Large zoomorphic mount Front 88.9 6.9 4.7
652 (T45) Large zoomorphic mount Reverse 87.3 8.1 4.7
270 (T185) Garnet inlaid pointed oval mount Reverse (dirty) 75.7 20.4 2.1
550 (T27) Strip with inscription Front 71.3 24.3 3.1
655 (T1) Large gold cross, folded Front 76.7 20.7 2.1
656 (T1) Large gold setting Reverse 70.1 27.2 3.1
453 (T221) ?Cheek-piece Reverse 61.3 36.8 3.4
?Cheek-piece Reverse (dark patch) 57.9 39.6 3.6
452 (T232) Pommel with garnet inlay on the sides Top 78.9 18.3 3.1
674 (T76) Pommel with garnet inlay on the sides Top 71.1 25.4 3.8

Non-Treasure finds

37 items recovered were found on examination either to be of modern date or undiagnostic and these are not considered to be part of the hoard. They are listed in Appendix 3 below. None of the iron objects could be considered to be anything other than recent (nineteenth or twentieth century). The pottery consisted of tin glazed earthen wares and salt glazed stone wares of similar date. All of the glass was also recent. A silver plate and chain (Number 890 on the hand list) bore an inscription that showed it to be of twentieth century date.

Subsequent to the excavation Mr Herbert found a fragment of a copper alloy disc with interlace decoration some 100m away from the location of the hoard. This object dates from the same period as the main deposit but, at present, it appears that there are no finds from the intervening space. It might best be interpreted as not belonging to the hoard but providing additional evidence for seventh century activity in the area.

Lumps of earth

56 lumps of earth or clay were recovered which gave a response to the metal detector, varying in weight between 99g and 1g. An x-ray examination of these proved useful and gave some indication of what they contain. Working from x-ray images presents some problems but it may be said that most of the fragments present within the earth differ little from the other material found on the site. There is a lot of crumpled sheet metal, some of which could be identified as sword hilt plates, rivets from hilts can also be seen. Fragments of reeded strip were present and it could be seen that some of the other fragments were decorated with filigree. At least one object is decorated with cloisonné garnets. One or more discs with toothed edges were observed which, so far as is known, have not been amongst the other material from the site. The state of the material is curious; although the fragments are crumpled they remain discrete suggesting they had been loosely packed in a bag, which decomposed and was in-filled with earth.

The condition of the finds

Most of the objects had been damaged prior to deposition, the gold had been bent and sometimes broken. Silver, being less malleable, broke before bending and was more highly fragmented. While there was much damage, most of this appears to reflect, not deliberate destruction, but the removal of objects from their original settings and subsequent folding to fit into a small space. It appears from their condition that the larger gold items had only entered the plough soil recently.

Of the material found 864 (62.6%) items had a mass of less than 3 grams and 507 (36.6%) had a mass of less than 1 gram.

The content of the hoard

The Staffordshire hoard is strongly martial in character (see summary in Appendix 1). Fittings from sword hilts dominate, together with possible helmet fragments, two, possibly three, Christian crosses and a number of objects as yet unidentified. Hilt fittings include 84 pommel caps, including fragments. Of these, 68 are gold, 11 are silver and 5 are copper alloy. In addition to the caps there are 135 sword hilt plate fragments (106 gold, 24 silver and 5 copper alloy) most of which are damaged. There are 71 hilt collars from sword grips, (66 gold, 2 silver and 3 copper alloy). Sword pyramids, which are likely to have been used as toggles, were represented by ten finds, all gold but for one silver example. 427 undecorated fragments which consist, in the main, of plate fragments or pieces of sheet metal. Of the plain pieces of silver 62 had been gilded.
The date of the deposit

While much of the decorative detail on these objects is obscured by earth it can, with confidence, be dated to the later sixth and seventh centuries AD. The swords and sword fittings appear, on first examination, to belong to types which Menghin (1982).places in the later sixth - seventh century. Cloisonné garnet work, the stones set in gold walled cells, appears on 149 objects and, again, was used during this period. 27 of the objects are decorated in Salin Style II, characterised by animals with interlaced bodies and distinctive jaws and eye settings (Speake, 1980). In England this style is seen as being a feature of the later sixth-seventh century. Potentially the latest object from the site is the inscription. An eighth century date was suggested for this but Michelle Brown of the British Library commented:

The style of lettering inclines me towards an earlier date - 7th or early eighth, rather than the late 8th-9th century core of Tiberius group mss from this locale. This is suggested by a high preponderence of uncial letter forms (N, E, S) and half-uncial 'oc' a, mixed with minuscules (g, d), plus the open wedges to heads of minims (d, i - of new roman cursive derivation, but probably the result of the scratched medium, perhaps implying someone who was used to drafting on wax tablets).

From my examination of this material I can confirm that most of it is made from gold or silver alloys and that it dates from the sixth- seventh century AD, strongly suggesting that it is Treasure as defined in the 1996 Act.

Kevin Leahy, BA, PhD, FSA, MIfA,
National Advisor, Early Medieval Metalwork, Portable Antiquities Scheme


Menghin W, 1982 Das Schwert im Frühen Mittelalter, Theiss, Stuttgart
Speake, G. 1980. Anglo-Saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background, Oxford, University Press.


For more on the hoard, see http://finds.org.uk/staffshoardsymposium.

Find of note status

This has been noted as an interesting find by the recorder.

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery & Potteries Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2009T394


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Subperiod to: Early
Ascribed Culture: Anglo-Saxon
Date from: AD 550
Date to: AD 650

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 5th July 2009

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Duncan Slarke
Identified by: Mr Duncan Slarke
Secondary identifier: Dr Kevin Leahy

Other reference numbers

Other reference: 50 finds from Staffordshire
Treasure case number: 2009T394
Museum accession number: & STKMG 2010.LH.10

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Secondary material: Gem

Spatial metadata

Region: West Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Staffordshire (County)

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: WMID
Created: 9 years ago
Updated: About one year ago

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