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Scholars Analyze England’s Staffordshire Hoard

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Staffordshire HoardBIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND—After a decade of research, archaeologists led by Chris Fern of the University of York think that the seventh-century A.D. gold and garnet artifacts known as the Staffordshire Hoard were captured by the armies of Mercia’s King Penda from his rivals in Northumbria and East Anglia, according to a report in The Guardian. Although almost 80 percent of the identified objects are fittings from weapons, a large processional cross in the collection suggests Anglo-Saxons may have carried Christian items into battle. The scholars have also identified a unique gold and garnet artifact as an ornament worn on top of a bishop’s headpiece. Both of these items had been bent before they were buried. It had been previously thought that gold weapons were limited to Anglo-Saxon kings, but a class of elite warriors may have wielded the 50 gold sword pommels found in the hoard. King Penda, who died in A.D. 655, is known to have defeated and killed the East Anglian kings Sigeberht and Anna, successors of Raedwald, who is thought to have been the occupant of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, which was discovered in 1939. Perhaps King Penda seized some of this treasure from their stores, Fern said. To read about a silver hoard that suggests an alliance between the kings of Wessex and Mercia to defend England from the Vikings, go to "Alfred the Great's Forgotten Ally."

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