Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saxon Gold Hoard! Worth Lots of Money! Also, a Wonderful Look into 7th Century England

"Huge Anglo-Saxon gold hoard found"
BBC (September 24, 2009)

"The UK's largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure has been discovered buried beneath a field in Staffordshire.

"Experts say the collection of 1,500 gold and silver pieces, which may date to the 7th Century, is unparalleled in size and worth 'a seven figure sum'.

"It has been declared treasure by South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh, meaning it belongs to the Crown. ..."

The monetary value of this archaeological find is distinctly non-trivial, but I see it as I think the archaeologists do: as a mass of information about the 7th century, waiting to be teased out of the metal, inscriptions, and sculpting.

I'm not immune to the allure of gold: but one of the really exciting items was a helmet: one of about four of it's type now known to exist.

The photo's caption reads:

"Anglo-Saxon helmets are very rare - only four helmets like the one from which the above cheek plate is taken have survived. Despite the intricate artwork, this helmet would have been used in battle, the decoration marking out the wearer's status."

The BBC did a pretty good job of writing up this find. I was a little disappointed, though, to find that their link to an 'analysis' article used the popular term, "Dark Ages" to denote the period following the Roman Empire's collapse.

I'll grant that it wasn't the most comfortable period in Europe's history, but the term comes from the idea that it's an unrecorded era, not at all like the brightness of the Roman Empire or the Renaissance. There are plenty of records covering events in the period - but they're most records kept by the Catholic Church: which don't count, in some circles. (A rather counter-cultural discussion of the matter is in "Notes on Culture: What Was the Renaissance?," William Doino, Jr., via EWTN.)

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