On Friday 1 November, I attended a very important event for early medieval archaeology. I refer to the Society of Antiquaries of London Staffordshire Hoard Colloquium and its attendant book launch.
Many archaeologists retain issues surrounding metal-detecting in the UK, and specifically the limitations of the laws and inadequate funding to sustain the reporting and acquisition of ‘treasures’ found in the soil by metal-detectorists. Moreover, many detest the media reporting of ‘treasure finds’ and the resulting commodification of the past. These issues were manifest in the discovery, recovery and the fieldwork associated with the Staffordshire Hoard, as well as the intense popular interest in it.
Yet the Staffordshire Hoard cannot be reduced to these concerns and issues. The conservation, investigation, interpretation and public engagement associated with this 10-year project constitutes an unprecedented success story for the archaeological study of the mid-/late-first millennium AD, as well as public engagement specifically with the Anglo-Saxon period. Thus, the Hoard is a major and significant case study in both early medieval archaeological insights into the late 6th and 7th centuries, and the public archaeology for a region, the nation, and for the global community of early medieval researchers and wider publics with many dimensions from fresh museum displays to online databases.
I created a Twitter Moment to encapsulate some of the tweets from the day, and I tweeted throughout the conference to convey the key ideas and issues to a wider audience.
Following a welcome by Professor Leslie Webster, there were takes by Chris Fern, Karen Hoilund Nielsen (represented by John Hines), Ian Freestone, Tania Dickinson, Richard Bradley and Frans Theuws. After lunch, there was me, Sam Lucy and John Blair. Sadly John Carman’s paper wasn’t presented. This was followed by a General Discussion and Wine Reception.
Only a modest number of monographs were available for purchase, but thanks to the wonderful conservator Pieta Greaves, I was able to buy one of them! It’s a beautiful book exploring 10 years of conservation and research on some amazing, fragmented, worn and selected items of Anglo-Saxon treasure.
What the beauty of the Hoard conceals through its magnificence is the many unanswered questions regarding its significance and context. In particular, as I discussed in my talk, we still know too little about the original location and landscape context of the Hoard’s deposition.