Staffordshire Hoard interview

duncan-slarkeBirmingham Museum and Art Gallery based Duncan Slarke of the Portable Antiquities Scheme was the first archaeologist to see the hoard.

He said: “This is unparalleled as a find of Anglo-Saxon precious metalwork. Certainly in the UK, possibly in Europe. Dr Kevin Leahy who’s the Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Adviser has written a report on the find, has being through them all and has been absolutely stunned by the quality and quantity of the material.

“1939 is probably the best parallel which was the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Now just to put into context, much of the material, some of the material is similar. There is 5kg of gold found in Staffordshire Hoard and in Sutton Hoo it was less than 1 1/2 kg.

“So in terms of quantity, it exceeds the best that we’ve got. The quality of metalwork is absolutely breathtaking.

“This was found by a local metal detectorist who’s been metal detecting for 18 years. It was in farmland. And he found it over a serious of days. Now because it’s largely silver and gold, he realised that there was an implication, under the Treasury Act, and so reported it to me.

“And at that point, with a number of finds, then I called the county archaeologists for Staffordshire and a full scale excavation commenced in which further material was found with the help of the metal detectorist.

“Seeing the material for the first time was absolutely breath-taking. I’d had a call about the material and I’d listed something like 50 sword caps/sword pom caps in gold. And to see the material, I didn’t really know what to expect, but to see the material actually in boxes on a table, glistening at me, I was staggered.

“I was there for 4 hours just looking at the material and the finder actually called me Duncan Wow after, because that’s all I could say, wow, because it was find after find after find, of the most staggering quality.

“What’s quite interesting about this assemblage, as Dr Leahy has looked at it, and made the point that it’s basically warfare related, its male items. There are very few, if any, female items in there. So it’s a very specific assemblage. It’s possibly suggesting something like trophies from a battle.

“Lesley Webster who’s, formerly a keeper at the British Museum, has said this is going to change our views of Anglo-Saxon England perhaps more than any other discovery including Sutton Hoo.

“One of the advantages of this material, bizarrely, is that some of it has perhaps been hit by a plough, some of it looks like it’s been deliberately folded up.

“And so you can actually see how some of the material was made. So I think its going to give us good insights into how the material was made. But also the volume of material, I think will give us a better idea of the detailed chronology metalwork in the period.

“There’s going to be years and years, perhaps never-ending academic research onto this. Already, the academics covering this particular period have seen much of the material.

“We don’t even know what some of it us. So there’s going to be vast amounts of further research and there will be publications.”

For further information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 303 3501

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