'Warrior Treasures: Saxon Gold from the Staffordshire Hoard' at the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds
A special exhibition at the Royal Armouries which will showcase around 100 spectacular items from the remarkable Staffordshire Hoard collection. It is the first time UK visitors will have the opportunity to view such a large number of items from this extraordinary collection outside the West Midlands where it was discovered. Some of the objects have never been on show before.
The Warrior Treasures exhibition focuses on fittings from weapons which make up the majority of the collection. It tells the story of their discovery, providing a fascinating glimpse into the warrior culture of a period in Anglo-Saxon history. These fittings were stripped from swords and seaxes (single-edged knives), and are thought to represent the equipment of defeated armies from unknown battles during the first half of the seventh century. The fittings are intricately decorated with gold, silver and semiprecious gems, and represent the finest quality Anglo-Saxon craftsmanship.
The Staffordshire Hoard is considered to be one of the most outstanding Anglo-Saxon finds since the excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship-burial in Suffolk in 1939. The hoard was discovered in July 2009 and is made up of around 4,000 fragments weighing over 6 kg. The secrets of the hoard are still being uncovered through painstaking research and on-going conservation, but most of the collection consists of fittings from weaponry.
Although fragmented, damaged and distorted, the hoard’s objects represent the possessions of an elite warrior class. Why it was buried, perhaps before c.675 AD is not certain. Significantly it was discovered close to a major routeway (Roman Watling Street), in what was the emerging Kingdom of Mercia. Warfare between England’s many competing regional kingdoms was frequent. The Staffordshire Hoard bears witness to this turbulent time in our history.
The exhibition will be complemented by an events programme of activities including hands-on archaeology sessions, storytelling, handling sessions, crafts, art and combat demonstrations, which will bring the Saxon world to life during the half term and summer holidays. The Royal Armouries has also developed a range of education materials and sessions aimed at schools to complement the exhibition.
Henry Yallop, Royal Armouries lead curator for the exhibition and expert in edged weapons, said: “The Royal Armouries, as the home to the national collection for arms and armour, is delighted to welcome items from this magnificent hoard for the Warrior Treasures exhibition. These parts of weapons are exquisitely crafted and it is no surprise that the story of the Staffordshire Hoard has captured the public’s imagination. Seeing the outstanding quality of these objects really brings to life the important role that high status weapons such as swords played in Anglo-Saxon society. The research and conservation into it continues to provide fascinating glimpses into the warrior culture of the seventh century.”
Pieta Greaves, Conservation Coordinator for the Staffordshire Hoard, Birmingham Museums Trust said: “Birmingham Museums Trust is thrilled at this opportunity to take some of the star items of the Staffordshire Hoard ‘on the road’. It is the first time some of these amazing items have been revealed after conservation, a process which has re-joined multiple fragments into never seen before objects.”
The treasure is owned by Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council and cared for on their behalf by Birmingham Museums Trust and The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. It is currently undergoing one of the UK’s largest archaeological research projects, conducted by Barbican Research Associates on behalf of the owners and Historic England, who fund the project.
Warrior Treasures: Saxon Gold from the Staffordshire Hoard runs until October 2.
Source: Royal Armouries [June 01, 2016]