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U.K. Amateur Finds Massive Treasure Trove

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

You know those people you see with metal detectors, scouring fields and beaches in their spare time, searching for who knows what? Well, it turns out that they do sometimes find stuff. An amateur treasure hunter in England has stumbled upon the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.

ROB GIFFORD: It must be every treasure hunter's dream. One minute, you're picking through the mud and leaves in a wet field. The next, you're staring down at one of the most amazing archaeological finds in British history. Fifty-five-year-old Terry Herbert was using his 13-year-old metal detector on a friend's farm in the central English county of Staffordshire in July. When the machine started beeping, he started digging, and then his eyes started popping. The find, which has only now been made public, consists of more than 1,500 pieces of gold and silver, some inlaid with precious stones. Experts say the pieces probably belonged to Anglo-Saxon royalty in the seventh century.

Ken Leahy(ph) is an archeologist with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records archaeological objects found by members of the public.

Mr. KEN LEAHY (Archaeologist, Portable Antiquities Scheme): All of the archaeologists who've looked at it have been awestruck. It's been actually quite scary working on this material to be, you know, in the presence of greatness. This metalwork was the best the Anglo-Saxons could do in the seventh century.

GIFFORD: Experts say the treasure will revolutionize understanding of the Anglo-Saxons who, before becoming part of the American ruling class, were a Germanic people who ruled England from the fifth century until the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Duncan Slarke is the local finds liaison officer in Staffordshire, the official who deals with such discoveries. He says he was speechless when he first saw the treasure.

Mr. DUNCAN SLARKE (Finds Liaison Officer, Staffordshire): What's quite interesting about this assemblage, it's basically warfare-related. It's male items. There are very few, if any, female items in there. So it's a very specific assemblage, and it's possibly suggesting something like trophies from a battle.

GIFFORD: The field where the treasure was found is being kept secret to deter looters. Part of the collection will go on display temporarily in Birmingham tomorrow. It will be valued and offered up for sale to a museum with a likely price tag in the millions. Proceeds will be split 50-50 between the man who owns the farm where it was found and Terry Herbert, the man who found it, allowing Mr. Herbert to perhaps invest in a new metal detector.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rob Gifford
Rob Gifford is the NPR foreign correspondent based in Shanghai.

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