In July 2009 a metal detector enthusiast decided to try his luck on a farmer’s field near his home in Hammerwich Parish, near Lichfield in Staffordshire, little did he know that he would be making the historical discovery of the century.
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found, anywhere in the world. It consists of nearly 4,000 items that are nearly all martial or warlike in character (having an astonishing 97 pommel caps and 71 hilt plates). The hoard totals 5.094 kilos of gold, 1.442 kilos of silver and 3,500 cloisonné garnets. Historically there is nothing remotely comparable in terms of content and quantity in the UK or mainland Europe. The artefacts have been painstakingly dated to the 7th or 8th centuries, placing the origin of the items in the time of the Kingdom of Mercia. Since the find a research and conservation programme, headed up by leading and notable experts in the field, has been launched and will be ongoing for a number years to come.
Every passing day reveals even more unknown facts about the hoard, its history and its heritage but what is know is that where it was found – near Watling Street – was one of the major thoroughfares of Roman Britain and was presumably still in use when the hoard was buried. The predominantly military contents of the hoard are of an extremely high quality of workmanship and seem to offer more questions about Britain’s history than answers.
Now, thanks to efforts of Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council the Staffordshire Hoard is on tour of Staffordshire for the public to enjoy and even speculate upon. Visiting the exhibition is free and all donations will help to conserve and research the hoard or future generations. A range of exclusive paid tours is also on sale at each venue. The tour, which starts 2nd July and ends 18th September, takes visitors on a voyage of Anglo-Saxon discovery – from unearthing the story of the hoard from the archaeologist’s eye in Stafford, through to exploring the hoard’s links to early Christendom, the Lichfield Angel and the priceless St Chad Gospels, at Lichfield Cathedral. In Tamworth visitors will find out more about the ancient seat of Mercia, the kingdom’s bloody battles, and a colourful cast of characters.
The touring exhibition will feature a 46” High Definition Digital Advertising Display, provided by AllSee Technologies, displaying striking close-up images of Star items featured in the hoard as well as video footage provided by National Geographic. Simon Meddings Associates handled the exhibition design and project management. Simon Meddings had the following to say, “AllSee provided a first class service and proved to be a valuable partner in the whole process. Their high definition screen allowed the stunning photography of the conserved items to be realised.” He continues “AllSee were very enthusiastic about the project and ensured that everything was tested and working prior to installation. I am grateful to them for their tireless support.”
The display was able to showcase the spectacular photos and videos at their best thanks to it’s built in High Definition media player as well as having full control over how the content is displayed.
The Staffordshire Hoard has garnered huge amounts of public interest including historian Dr. David Starkey FSA who agrees that the tour must have “displays that will match the excitement of the find.” Guests gathered last month at the British Museum for an Art Fund ‘thank you’ event for the supporters of the hoard, they included Dame Judi Dench, Michael Palin and Tristram Hunt MP. It was also the subject of last Sunday’s “Staffordshire Hoard” program on BBC1, where TV historian Dan Snow explores the contents of the hoard as well as its wider cultural, religious and historical relevance.
The Staffordshire Hoard is so much more than a collection of Anglo-Saxon war booty – it’s the legacy of craftsmen whose artistry fashioned precious metals and gemstones into incredibly detailed sword hilt fittings, helmet parts and other items. It’s also the story of kings, religious men and their warriors, who carried these pieces into battle, who fell, and were later stripped of their finery. It is also the opportunity to question historical inaccuracies, painting a clearer picture of our history and heritage.
For more information on where you can see the Staffordshire Hoard please visit www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk
Source: AllSee Technologies