In 2009, Terry Herbert decided to try his hand at treasure hunting in a field near Lichfield in Staffordshire. A member of the local metal detector club, Herbert followed all the proper procedures – including getting permission from the landowner, Fred Johnson. Herbert set out, sweeping the field with his metal detector, hoping to find some lost jewelry. Instead, he stumbled upon the largest Anglo-Saxon gold hoard ever discovered.
Over the course of five days, Herbert filled 244 bags with artifacts. It seemed as if the treasures were endless, so Herbert contacted archeologists who began excavation of the field. The find was so big; the location of the excavation was initially kept secret. Eventually, the word got out and the world was talking about the Staffordshire Hoard – as it had come to be known.
After months of work, the entire hoard was excavated, which amounted to 3,500 pieces of treasure. Interestingly, the entire hoard is martial, or military related. It contains no domestic items, jewelry, coins, or anything of the like. Aside from a few crosses, the treasure is all swords, armor, helmets, scabbards, and other military items. However, the items were not likely partitioned to standard soldiers; the equipment, dating back to about the 7th or 8th century, was exemplary of the finest metalwork of the time. And of course, it contained a lot of gold.
To this day, experts are still unsure of the purpose of the Staffordshire Hoard. Theories range from a religious offering, to buried treasure that the owners never returned to uncover, to a trophy collection representative of many victorious battles.
All together, the treasure was valued at approximately $5 million. Both Herbert the finder and Johnson the landowner received half a share of the treasure’s value. Today, the Staffordshire Hoard is on display or on loan to a number of museums, including the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in England and the National Geographic Museum in the US.