The announcement of the discovery of a hoard of Saxon gold near Lichfield in the United Kingdom made headlines around the world. The discovery was one of those archaeological discoveries that can be classed as the find of the century, and was soon given the accolade of the Staffordshire Hoard.
The initial discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard occurred in July 2009 when pieces made from precious metals were uncovered by an amateur metal detectorist, Terry Herbert. Terry Herbert has been metal detecting for over twenty years, and was a member of the Bloxwich Research and Metal Detecting Club, and like so many hundreds of people across the United Kingdom has been active with his hobby in his spare time.
Of course most land in the United Kingdom has an owner, and to go metal detecting requires the owner’s consent. In the case of the Staffordshire Hoard, Terry Herbert, contacted Fred Johnson, the farmer who owned the farmland to be searched, and got the go ahead. Fred Johnson had no idea that anything would be found, the land had after all previously had a metal detector passed over it with no positive results.
Terry Herbert started to look and in an area recently ploughed started to detect metallic objects, and soon the first parts of the Staffordshire Hoard were being uncovered. Over a period of several days many items were uncovered, and placed in bags. As all reputable metal detectorists do, Terry Herbert reported his find to the authorities, in this case the Staffordshire and West Midlands Portable Antiquities Scheme. It is a regrettable truth that so many items have been found and sold on the black market without being properly recorded.
Work for proper excavation of the site was then given over to the University of Birmingham and the archaeological department, with work funded by English Heritage. A more systematic search of the land was then undertaken, including the painstaking excavation of a large area, and a geophysical survey. The extensive nature of the search would ensure that almost seventeen hundred items would be recovered.
The finding of the Staffordshire Hoard has been an example of just how a treasure trove should be found and dealt with. The metal detectorist got permission to dig, and when the discovery was made, it was reported to the authorities. The find has been properly recorded and is now available for the general public to view.