But just as many lottery winners have discovered to their cost, hitting the jackpot and finding a unique, golden treasure does not always lead to happiness ever after and can even cause the people involved to regret ever having been part of their remarkable discovery. So was finding the Staffordshire Hoard a wonderful, life-changing event for those involved or merely the precursor to arguing, bitterness and remorse?
Most of the precious objects were associated with warfare, such as parts of decorated helmets, sword pommels, and hilt collars. There were also three gold crosses discovered that had had the arms folded inwards, possibly so that they would not take up so much space when they were buried. Mr Herbert reported his amazing find to the local authorities and Birmingham archaeology undertook the full archaeological excavation between July and August 2009.
There has been fierce debate as to how this collection of treasure was originally accumulated and why, but it has been suggested that they are trophies collected from vanquished warriors after a battle, or that the gold and silver embellishments had been removed so that the sword blades or metal helmets could then be redecorated to reflect the new owner’s identity. Also there have been various reasons put forward as to why the Staffordshire Hoard was buried in that field, ranging from the treasure being an offering to a pagan god to the artefacts being hastily concealed due to protect them from being pillaged during a battle.
However, some of the archaeological finds from this period, such as the Sutton Hoo burial and now the Staffordshire Hoard, show that the Anglo-Saxons were exceptionally skilled at working precious metals, setting them with garnet gemstones. The field where the Staffordshire Hoard was found was in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia, ruled by warrior kings such as Aethelred, Penda and Wulfhere.
During the 7th century AD Mercia was trying to expand its territory and influence and was being militarily aggressive, so the booty of the Staffordshire Hoard could easily have been stripped from bodies on the battlefield. The Staffordshire Hoard also shows that at that time, Anglo-Saxon Britain was in transition from being a pagan country to a Christian one, as some of the objects show a mix between being decorated with pagan or Christian symbols.
The relationship has even deteriorated to the point where Mr Johnson has banned Terry Herbert from ever setting foot on his land again. It seems that both men have expressed regret that they ever had any part in discovering the Staffordshire Hoard. Fred Johnson has stated in the media that he believes that Terry Herbert is just a greedy, grasping man and that he has been incensed by Mr Johnson’s desire to search for more treasure on the farm. Mr Johnson says that he was never interested in gaining money from the find and was only ever interested in protecting the find for the country, and also that he did not welcome any of the publicity or media interest.
Mr Herbert has riposted by saying that Fred Johnson was just unhappy that he had to share any of the payout and that he wanted to keep all the money for himself. So despite the fact that Fred Johnson has been able to build himself a new house on his farm and that Terry Herbert has moved from his council flat to a luxury bungalow, their new found wealth does not seem to have brought either man very much happiness or peace of mind.
This fascinating piece of Anglo-Saxon history is now housed in several museums in the UK, including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Potteries Museum and the British Museum, where visitors can wonder at their beauty and experts can continue to examine them and discover more about their history, how they were made and fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of Anglo-Saxon history.