Terry the Conqueror: Amateur Uses Metal Detector to Find Historic Anglo-Saxon Treasure

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A team of archeologists unveiled the largest and most valuable hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found, on Sept. 24, 2009. The 1,300-year-old treasure was discovered in July by unemployed welfare recipient Terry Herbert, an amateur with a metal detector who was treasure-hunting on a friend’s private farmland.

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At a press conference in Birmingham, U.K., archeologists display pieces of the Staffordshire Hoard. More than 1,500 pieces of gold and silver were uncovered in Staffordshire, England, and the hoard has been hailed as a perception-altering discovery from the Anglo-Saxon era of England’s history.

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Dr. Kevin Leahy of the Portable Antiquities Scheme poses with a piece of the Staffordshire Hoard. Leahy has been a part of many other excavation teams, including one that excavated the Cleatham cremation cemetery. “After all those urns, I think I deserve the Staffordshire find,” he said.

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The Birmingham University Archeology Unit and the Staffordshire County Council unearthed most of the hoard. All together, the hoard weighs in at five kilograms of gold and 1.3 kilograms of silver. Many pieces are decorated with precious stones.

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The cheek-piece of a helmet, decorated with a frieze of running animals. Most of the pieces appear to date from the 7th century, although there is already some debate about the exact time.

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A strip of gold with a Biblical inscription in Latin.

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The exact spot where the hoard lay hidden for a millennium and a half has not yet been revealed. However, it was likely at the heart of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia.

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The Staffordshire Hoard is “absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells,” said Leslie Webster, former keeper of the Department of Prehistory and Europe in the British Museum.

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Archeologist Ian Wykes said a find like this “reaffirms why you became an archaeologist in the first place.”

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Hordes of people wait in line to see the Staffordshire Hoard on Sept. 25, 2009, at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

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