UK & World News
Stunning Treasure Trove Brought Together
For the first time, all 4,000 pieces of the UK's largest treasure trove, the Staffordshire Hoard, have been brought together in secret to be analysed by experts.
The Anglo-Saxon metalwork and gold was found in a field nearly five years ago by a local man with his metal detector.
Usually split between museums in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent, it is unlikely the pieces will ever be in one place again.
After 12,000 hours of cleaning the items with natural thorns to remove mud without scratching the delicate metalwork, intricate detail has been revealed.
Deb Klemperer, curator at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, said: "Science has shown us in the last two years how exciting the workmanship is for us, in that the gold was alloyed with copper and silver to make it stronger.
"But then they had to make it look 'blingier' and twinkly so they worked some acid into the surface but we don't know what yet, and leached out the copper and silver so it looked gold again, bright gold.
"It's helping us understand more about the dark ages, but it's far from dark when you have material like this."
Ms Klemperer said the exquisite designs would have adorned the most powerful people in English society in the seventh century.
"All these little pieces have come together to give us a picture of these rich and powerful men who would have been either kingly or the close supporters of the king.
"They would have been dressed in all of this gear on their swords, on their belts, and helmets and they weren't afraid to show this, to be powerful on the battlefield and wield their swords and kill."
The discovery of the hoard made a fortune for Terry Herbert, who went onto a field near Lichfield with his metal detector in 2009.
He split a £3.28m finder's fee with the landowner Fred Johnson.
Mr Johnson, who has since banned treasure hunters from his farmland, was invited to see the full collection for the first time, and has his own thoughts on why it was in his field.
"I think it's the proceeds from a battle or maybe several battles, buried maybe with the intention of collecting it later. Whoever buried it lost their life in battle, that's the most popular thought."
Experts believe an Anglo-Saxon poem could be key to unlocking the truth.
"Beowulf was oral history for many generations, a legend of a dragon, and treasure, and great kings, and it was finally written down perhaps in the 10th or 11th century but people used to think that's what it was, a legend and perhaps exaggeration.
"This archaeology, these artefacts, show that that's not the case, that Beowulf is describing something real, very well adorned, wealthy warriors fighting for their king."
There will be decades of painstaking work to piece together who buried the Staffordshire Hoard, and why they buried it.
But slowly a clearer picture is emerging of a little known age, and the findings will change history.
Details of how you can view the Staffordshire Hoard can be found on the Staffordshire Hoard website.
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