In the Telegraph, John Preston writes intriguingly about the discovery of an enormous cache of Anglo-Saxon gold in a field in Staffordshire. Preston recalls the words of British archaeologist Howard Carter describing his feelings as he peered inside the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922: “For a moment, time as a factor in human life has lost its meaning. Thousands of years may have passed and gone since human feet last trod the floor on which you stand, and yet you feel it might have been but yesterday.”
Preston also compares the current discovery “to the 1.5 kilos of gold found at Sutton Hoo – previously the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure trove ever discovered. And, just as Sutton Hoo prompted a radical re-evaluation of the Dark Ages, so the Staffordshire discoveries are bound to throw new light on what remains the most mysterious period in our history.” Preston recalls that the Sutton Hoo discovery in Suffolk was made in the summer of 1939 when Britain stood on the brink of war.
Following the war, the British novelist Angus Wilson turned the excavation at Sutton Hoo to his own purposes in Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. (Wilson discussed the genesis of the novel in a 1981 lecture posted here.) The plot of Anglo-Saxon Attitudes turns on the discovery of “an obscene idol” turned up in the coffin of a seventh-century bishop during an archaeological dig. The gold cache discovered in Staffordshire provides a good occasion for readers to discover, or rediscover, Wilson’s witty novel.
JOHN adds: This is one of the more interesting recent news stories. The Staffordshire Hoard is a web site devoted to the find. It includes pictures of the artifacts; here are a couple. Click to enlarge:
The site also includes information about the people who made the find and a rather fun reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon village.
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