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Golden dreams for man who found Anglo-Saxon hoard

The man who discovered an Anglo-Saxon hoard with his metal detector said he dug up so much gold he was seeing the precious metal in his sleep afterwards.

Terry Herbert, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, unearthed his find on the afternoon of July 5 this year.

The 55-year-old spent the next five days scouring a stretch of Staffordshire farmland and digging up pieces of an archaeological puzzle already sparking debate among experts.

He said: "Imagine you're at home and somebody keeps putting money through your letterbox, that was what it was like.

"I was going to bed and in my sleep I was seeing gold items.

"As soon as I closed my eyes I saw gold patterns, I didn't think it was ever going to end.

"I just kept thinking of what I might find the next day."

Mr Herbert bought his first metal detector 18 years ago from a car boot sale for just £2.50.

His hobby is now set to bring him a substantial return, after he discovered the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.

The financial worth of the hoard may take many months to assess, but once a valuation and sale have been completed, the market value of the find will go to Mr Herbert and the owner of the farmland where it was discovered.

The pair have agreed to split the sum in half and Mr Herbert, who is unemployed, plans to spend his share of the reward on a bungalow.

He said: "It's been more fun than winning the lottery.

"People laugh at metal detectorists. I've had people go past and go 'beep beep, he's after pennies'.

"Well no, we are out there to find this kind of stuff and it is out there.

"People have said it (the hoard) was bigger than Sutton Hoo and one expert said it was like finding Tutankhamen's tomb.

"I just flushed all over when he said that. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, you just never expect this."

Mr Herbert, a member of a metal detecting club in Staffordshire, said the scale of his discovery soon became a burden.

He said: "I was excited when I started digging up the gold but it was frightening in the end.

"I was getting frightened about other people getting onto the field, night hawkers.

"It was like a burden on my shoulders, it became a worry."

The discovery has excited historians and archaeologists - with many predicting it will redefine perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England.

Deb Klemperer, local history collections officer at Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Staffordshire, said: "My first view of the hoard brought tears to my eyes - the Dark Ages in Staffordshire have never looked so bright nor so beautiful.

"This incredible find will sit alongside numerous collections of archaeological remains which are interpreted within the context of the geological, natural and social history of our area."

Ian Wykes, an archaeologist who leads Staffordshire County Council's Historic Environment Team, said: "I think for any archaeologist this is the find of a lifetime and reaffirms why you became an archaeologist in the first place.

"It was only when I saw the treasure still in the ground that it started to sink in.

"To be the first person to see an object since it was buried, and exactly as it would have last been seen, is a real privilege."

HIGHLIGHTS OF ANGLO-SAXON HOARD

The largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found comprises more than 1,500 items. Here are some of the collection's highlights:

  • Sword hilt fittings

At least 84 pommel caps and 71 sword hilt collars have been identified so far. They would have adorned a sword or seax (short sword or knife). Their elaborate and expensive decoration - many are made of gold and inlaid with garnets - suggests the weapons were once the property of the highest echelons of nobility.

  • Helmets

Experts are piecing together what they believe are parts from several splendidly decorated helmets, including what appears to be a cheek-piece with a frieze of running animals. It has a relatively low gold content and has been specially alloyed, probably to make it more functional and able to withstand blows. There are also fragments of silver edging and reeded strips that may have been helmet fittings and an animal figurine that was possibly the crest of a helmet.

  • Biblical inscription

A strip of gold bearing a biblical inscription in Latin is one of the most significant and controversial finds. One expert believes that the style of lettering indicates it is from the seventh or early eighth centuries, while another dates it to the eighth or ninth centuries.

The warlike inscription, mis-spelt in places, is thought to be from the Book of Numbers, Chapter 10 verse 35. The translation reads: "Rise up, o Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face."

  • Folded crosses

The largest of two or three crosses in the hoard may have been an altar or processional cross. It has been folded, possibly to make it fit into a small space prior to burial.

The apparent lack of respect shown to this Christian symbol may point to the hoard being buried by pagans.

Belfast Telegraph

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