Why was the dis­cov­ery of the Stafford shire Hoard so im­por­tant?

BBC History Magazine - - Miscellany -

Deb­o­rah Wil­liams, Le­ices­ter

At the time of its dis­cov­ery in a A field near Lich­field in 2009, it was said that the Stafford­shire Hoard would “re­write his­tory”. This claim is made with de­press­ing reg­u­lar­ity about ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies. But is it true of the Stafford­shire Hoard?

The An­glo-Saxon hoard (con­sist­ing of more than 3,500 items) came out of the blue – there had never been any­thing like it be­fore. The quan­tity and qual­ity of gold and sil­ver work is as­ton­ish­ing and shows the splen­dour of sev­enth-cen­tury art and crafts­man­ship. The hoard con­sists mainly of weapons, rep­re­sent­ing a heroic so­ci­ety where war­riors bat­tled for dom­i­nance. Yet it also con­tains Chris­tian ob­jects from the cru­cial years of the con­ver­sion from pa­gan­ism, demon­strat­ing how the An­glo-Saxon world was chang­ing. His­tor­i­cally, it couldn’t be bet­ter placed.

Ig­nor­ing the hype, it would be fair to ar­gue that his­tory has been rewrit­ten by the un­earthing of the Stafford­shire Hoard. Be­fore its dis­cov­ery, the An­glo-Saxon pe­riod was of­ten ig­nored, seen sim­ply as an in­ter­val be­tween the Ro­man and me­dieval pe­ri­ods, en­livened only by the ar­rival of gangs of pi­rates from Scan­di­navia. How­ever, since the dis­cov­ery of the hoard, this has all changed: peo­ple have at last heard of the An­glo-Sax­ons and now know, ap­pre­ci­ate and en­joy this fas­ci­nat­ing age.

Dr Kevin Leahy is the national ad­viser on early me­dieval met­al­work for the Por­ta­ble An­tiq­ui­ties Scheme

In­tri­cately dec­o­rated gold item­sitem from the An­glo-Saxon An Stafford­shire Staffords Hoard

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