Monday, February 13, 2012

The Golden Hoard

The golden hoard is a staple of western myth and fantasy fiction. Two years ago, a man with a metal detector found the real thing...over three thousand pieces of gold and silver, many adorned with garnets, buried in a field in Staffordshire.

The most amazing thing is how long this hoard sat in the ground without being discovered. Now, though, it lends itself to mystery.

Every single item in the hoard was damaged. The vast majority were items of a military nature, but the hoard also contained crosses and what may have been the decorations from a book (possibly a Bible). But the pieces were broken, mangled and torn.

Archaeologists have speculated. Was this from an epic battle? It wasn't near a border, but was found along a major trade route. Did somebody steal the gold, bury it, and then never come back for it? Was it a pagan sacrifice, with the items deliberately destroyed before burial.

I came up with an idea of my own. Gold and silver are, of course, incredibly valuable. You do not waste gold. The evidence is that precious metals and gems were normally recycled.

Was the Staffordshire 'hoard' actually broken objects being taken from a King's court to a jewelsmith to be recycled? Was it not that they were deliberately broken, but that it was a selection of items that had already been broken? This could even explain the military nature of most of the items - military items would have seen heavy use whilst, for example, a woman's bracelet would be carefully stored when not being worn and likely last for generations.

Of course, one of the things about archaeology as a science: Most scientists want answers. Archaeologists are only happy with questions.