Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Anglo-Saxon treasure find throws new light on Dark Ages


[The Australian] 29 Sep 2009--The snaking line of more than 1000 people queuing to enter the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in northern England on Friday illustrated the surge of interest sparked by the announcement - just a day before - of the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered.

Among those queuing to see the artefacts was Allison Buckley, 47, from Stafford. "It's almost as exciting as queuing to see the treasures of Tutankhamun," she said, recalling the rush to see the Egyptian boy king's death mask in London in 1972. "What makes this so exciting is it's just been unearthed. There's still soil on the pieces, and you can imagine it in the ground."

The treasures were chanced on in a Staffordshire field by Terry Herbert, a 55-year-old unemployed metal-detection enthusiast. The find - almost 1500 gold and silver items thought to date from the 7th or 8th century - has staggered archeologists.

Experts say it will reshape our understanding of the Dark Ages. So little is known of the period that the artefacts have already led historians to question some of their fundamental beliefs - such as whether Christianity was embraced by the pagan Saxons earlier than previously thought.

But why are historians so animated over the Staffordshire Hoard, as it is being called, and what are the secrets it promises to unlock about Britain's most obscure historical period?

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