Archaeologists said on Thursday, jobless metal detectorist unearthed the biggest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever found in a country field.
The trove of at least 1,350 items, including five kilos (11 pounds) of gold and a smaller amount of silver, was found in July by 55-year-old Terry Herbert with a metal detector near his home in Burntwood, some 15 miles north of Birmingham.
The haul, which is potentially worth a fortune, was officially declared 'treasure' on Thursday by a coroner, who has the legal right to decide the status of such finds.
It is believed to date from the seventh century AD, and may have belonged to Saxon royalty. The treasure includes sword hilt fittings inlaid with precious stones, helmets, crosses and a strip of gold bearing a Biblical inscription in Latin.
"This is absolutely phenomenal. When I first saw the material I was absolutely staggered," said Duncan Slarke, Staffordshire's Finds Liaison Officer, who was the first professional to see the hoard.
Leslie Webster, former keeper at the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe, said the find would "alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries."
"(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells," he said.
In the meantime, the financial worth of the hoard may take months to assess, but its market value will eventually go to Mr Herbert and the owner of the farmland where it was found.
"It's been more fun than winning the lottery," Mr Herbert said.
He plans to spend some of his share of the Crown's reward on a bungalow.
"I have this phrase that I say sometimes; 'spirits of yesteryear take me where the coins appear', but on that day I changed coins to gold," he said.
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