Staffordshire Hoard


In 2009 a spectacular gold and silver hoard was discovered in Staffordshire, in the heartlands of the Mercian kingdom. Archaeologists suggest it was buried before 675, although motivations for the accumulation of the treasure and its eventual burial are uncertain. It may have been deposited for ritual reasons or lost after having been hidden for later recovery.

The composition of the Staffordshire Hoard is very unusual, because of the exceptionally high quality of the objects and their variety. Military regalia dominates, including pommels from at least seventy-four swords; not a single item would normally be associated with use by women. Another striking feature is that all the objects were broken up before being put into the ground, perhaps for recycling or to destroy their symbolic potency.

Amid the crushed military artefacts are a few pieces that are overtly Christian. The pectoral cross is a personal ornament that might have belonged to a high-ranking cleric or noble convert. A gilded strip with a ‘D’-shaped gem probably came from the lower arm of a cross. Both surfaces carry a near-identical biblical inscription in Latin, that reads: ‘Arise, O Lord, and may your enemies be torn apart and those who hate you will flee from your face’. Derived from the Old Testament Book of Numbers, this invocation encapsulates the entwining of faith and war in an age of conflict and conversion.

The objects collected in the hoard had wide-ranging chronological and geographical origins. The earliest items, made during the 6th century, were already old when buried. The largest group of items dates from around 600 and resembles objects from central and northern England. Other objects have greatest parallels with metalwork found in East Anglia, especially at Sutton Hoo. These objects are decorated with garnets from distant sources, including India. The latest objects in the hoard date to the mid-7th century, and include silver sword pommels with ornamental details familiar from parts of southern Scotland that had come under Northumbrian control.

Full title:
Staffordshire Hoard
later 6th century to mid-7th century
Held by
Birmingham Museums Trust

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