Staffordshire Hoard 'to help rewrite history'

Pectoral cross The hoard could provide an early glimpse of Mercia's conversion

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A haul of Anglo-Saxon gold discovered beneath a Staffordshire farmer's field could help rewrite history, experts say.

Historians believe the Staffordshire Hoard could hold vital clues to explain the conversion of Mercia - England's last great pagan kingdom - to Christianity in the 7th Century.

The hoard was found buried on a farm in Staffordshire in July 2009.

The 1,500 pieces of gold are thought to be the spoils of an Anglo-Saxon battle.

'Warring kingdoms'

TV historian Dan Snow believes the find has the potential to rewrite the history books.

Speaking on BBC1's The Staffordshire Hoard, he said the conversion of Mercia "marked the beginning of a new era in English history".

"The Staffordshire Hoard is helping shine a light on exactly how and when the transformation occurred," he explained.

Historian David Starkey said: "England, remember, isn't England at all; England has yet to be invented - the word barely exists.

"Instead, there were these rival warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that behaved like the worst kind of takeover bidders of the city.

  • The site was excavated by Birmingham Archaeology between July 24 and August 21, 2009
  • The vast majority of items in the hoard are martial - war gear, especially sword fittings
  • There is nothing feminine - no dress fittings, brooches or pendants, the gold objects most commonly found from the Anglo-Saxon era
  • The objects display three kinds of decoration - cut and mounted garnets, gold filigree and animal patterns
  • The hoard is thought to have been war bounty, seized from vanquished enemies by the victorious

"They decapitated each other - literally, not metaphorically.

"It's gang warfare, when you take over the territory of a rival gang, the lot get bumped off."

Mercia was one of Britain's largest and most aggressive kingdoms, stretching from Humber to London.

The pagan kings of Mercia resisted conversion to Christianity until it became surrounded by Christian states late in the 7th Century.

Historians believe the hoard could give the last glimpse of Paganism and the first of Christianity.

The largest-ever haul of Anglo-Saxon gold found in Britain, the Staffordshire Hoard was discovered buried beneath a farmer's field near Brownhills by amateur metal detector enthusiast Terry Herbert.

The hoard comprises more than 1,500 items, made of gold and silver, embedded with precious stones and jewels and was valued at nearly £3.3m.

After the Staffordshire Coroner ruled in September 2009 that the find was the "property of the Crown", arrangements were made for the valuation.

The money was split between Mr Herbert, and Fred Johnson, who owns the farm where it was discovered.

More than 40 items from the Staffordshire Hoard are on display in this summer's Tour 2011 across the West Midlands.

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