Archaeologists believe it was captured across several mid-seventh century battles
Britain’s most glorious Anglo-Saxon treasures may have been captured in a series of Dark Age battlefields – during bitter conflicts between rival British kingdoms.
Archaeologists who completed a major study of the finds now believe they were captured in several major wars in the mid-seventh century.
The treasures, now known as the Staffordshire Hoard, from the kingdoms of North Midria, East Anglia and possibly Wessex, were seized by the kingdom of Mercia in the English middle lands (perhaps three to six significant military encounters).
The hoard – the largest Anglo-Saxon gold treasure ever found – is one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made in Britain.
After 10 years of detailed research, archaeologists will publish a full record of hundreds of high-status gold and silver objects found by a metal detector in a field in South-East Staffordshire a decade ago.
The book – published by the world’s oldest historical organisation, the Society of Antiquaries of London – describes all of the hoard’s 700 objects (4kg of gold items and 1.7kg of silver ones).
Strikingly, they do not seem to reflect the wide range of gold and silver artefacts which would have existed in Anglo-Saxon society.
Instead, the study demonstrates that the material is almost exclusively military in nature. Even one of the small number of ecclesiastical objects in the hoard appears to have been of a potentially military character.
The hoard was made up of golden fittings from up to 150 swords, gold and garnet elements of a very high status seax (fighting knife), a spectacular gilded silver helmet, an impressive 30cm-long golden cross, a beautiful gold and garnet pectoral cross, a probable bishop’s headdress – and parts of what is likely to have been a portable battlefield shrine or reliquary.