September 25, 2009

"People laugh at metal detectorists. I've had people go past and go, 'Beep, beep, he’s after pennies.' Well no, we're out there to find this kind of stuff, and it is out there."

Terry Herbert, the greatest detectorist of them all.
Since the July day when his detector picked up traces of the hoard beneath a field in Staffordshire, a Midlands county that was at the center of the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, Mr. Herbert said, he has been seeing piles of gold in his sleep. Awake, he has quietly celebrated his triumph over all the people who mocked him in the years when a typical day’s finds amounted to little but scrap....

He said that on the day of his discovery he reworked a mantra that he regularly used for good luck. “I have this phrase that I say sometimes — ‘Spirits of yesterday, take me where the coins appear’ — but on that day I changed ‘coins’ to ‘gold.’ I don’t know why I said it that day, but I think somebody was listening.”


27 comments:

Jeff said...

It's not like they are going to let him keep it.

rhhardin said...

So far, the farmer is the only normal person in the story.

Discovery of ancient British recipes would be something though.

Ann Althouse said...

@Jeff He gets half, according to the article.

Ann Althouse said...

(Half of the value, not half of the objects.)

RJO said...

"The treasures of time lie high, in urns, coins, and monuments, scarce below the roots of some vegetables. Time hath endless rarities, and shows of all varieties; which reveals old things in heaven, makes new discoveries in earth, and even earth itself a discovery. That great antiquity America lay buried for thousands of years, and a large part of the earth is still in the urn unto us."

Bissage said...

How can we be sure Mr. Herbert didn’t keep the ring for himself?

LarsPorsena said...

Nice find but no piece near as evocative as the finds at Sutton Hoo.

Triangle Man said...

Perhaps it was a guardian angel.

MadisonMan said...

Bissage, I would have.

Henry said...

Jeff wrote: "It's not like they are going to let him keep it."

A archeologist friend of mine who has been commenting on this on Facebook writes: "As I understand it, Crown property means that the state must compensate the finder for the value of the treasure, which the finder must give to the state on declaration that the find is "treasure". The declaration of treasure-status comes before the individual is allowed to sell the material on the open market and gives the state, effectively, rights of first purchase."

Mr. Herbert will split the value with the landowner.

Yet Herbert could have just rifled all the loot he could carry and sold it without telling the state. Many archeological finds have been severely damaged by looters before being secured.

It's an amazing collection. Here's a Flickr portfolio.

Michael said...

Nice find but no piece near as evocative as the finds at Sutton Hoo

I don't know about that. The inscribed strip of gold is pretty remarkable. It reads [.]irge domine disepentu[r] inimici tui et [f]ugent qui oderunt te a facie t[u]a which is a quotation from Numbers 10:35, though probably taken directly from Psalm 67:2, where it is also used. Translated, it means “Rise up, Lord, and may your enemies be dispersed and those who hate you be driven from your face.” Interesting to see the quotation from the Bible in a hoard that is seems to be all military material.
Could be part of the great payoff required of king Oswiu of Northumbria by Penda of Mercia in the ninth century.
More here: Staffordshire Hoard.

miller said...

it's beautiful

Michael said...

The British changed policy a few years back and have brought metal detectorists into the archeological fold. If you find and report something, you either get to keep it (if it's not unique, needed for a museum, etc.) or you get compensated. This has brought a lot of finds to light that might otherwise has silently disappeared into collections or been melted down. Detectorists now report individual pennies and strap ends instead of just quietly putting them in their pockets. Archeologist then plot the the finds on maps and can track travel and settlement patterns. The detectorists end up serving as a network of archeologists larger than any official project could be. Both the British government and the detectorists deserve a lot of credit not just for the huge finds like this, but for the accumulation of data.

David said...

Keeps half before taxes probably. There goes another half.

traditionalguy said...

I loved the pic of the Saxon descended Mr Herbert. Perhaps he will get a fourth after the Crown and the landowner cash in from his find. The stash was probably loot hidden to be dug up later, but the raiding bandit was killed in a later fight before he could come back for it..

Cedarford said...

I noted the Staffordshire Hoard discovery on the "Boobs Thread", as a counterpoint to depressing cancer tales. I'd add that Anne's linked NY Times article doesn't have the Reuters video of parts of the treasure being dug up, then displayed. Worth checking out:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090924/ap_on_re_eu/eu_britain_anglo_saxon_gold

Cedarford said...

--------------
I think this find of Terry Herberts is a fulfillment of every young boys dream. Or certain of us that have had that almost aching urge to get unfound treasure in their little hands. I remember as a young boy we vacationed in Florida, and my being seized by a mania to find a pirate's gold dubloon or piece of eight washing up on the surf. I walked miles of shore and never tired. Along the way I met other boys doing the same thing, rushing down after each wave to see what was revealed worth taking...like flocks of sandpipers doing the same ritual for different treasure. I met two aggressive blak kids who informed me that if I found anything, I had to give it to them, because it was "their beach". One hit me when I said something to the effect of "no way". I hit him back, harder..and was wrestling with the 2nd one in the surf, halfway trying to drown him or fill his mouth up with sand...when adults broke it up. Just like two bands of pirates would have fought over a treasure chest.

Except we were kids warring over what was only in our imagination, and over real honor and who had a right to "turf"..

On that day and ensuent days, I also noticed many old retiree guys prowling, fully clothed, waving their detectors, off in the dunes and palmettos, as well as on the beach. Each listening, with an intense focus, their eyes showing they were not in the here and present, though. They were likely young again, in their minds, a boy again. As I was. 60-70 year old memories of Robert Louis Stevenson's words and the mental images in their heads, or the latest lavish photos of Spanish galleon treasures from National Geographic seared in their minds.

Or perhaps it was an urge, in their twilight, after a good but perhaps unremarkable life, to have that "Last Shot". With a beep-beep-beep! their last welcome everyday symphony..At affirming they did matter and finding something...being part of discovering something remarkable that would affix themselves firmer in other's memories once they were gone.

I did find treasure. Real treasure. While fishing for bass in a river with my Dad, Grandfather, and brother 20 miles from shore, we landed on a bank of mud and gravel churned up by a hurricane that went through two years earlier. My Grand-dad, who was a little pissy because he was stuck with two brats he'd rather have had two hours of love with then a long break away from to play golf with his pals, noticed a small pile of black bones and black shark's teeth. Looking - I found 3 shark's teeth down the mud bank - huge serrated ones! Much bigger than Grand dad's. One I gave to Grand-dad. Two were then thrown in with all the other "treasure" I found from Florida...sand dollars, shells, a chunk of some rusted iron thing that I learned didn't come from a Spanish Galleon. Along the way, I learned the two teeth came from a Megadalon, and a big one. 40 years later, my Mom sent me a box with childhood effects I had forgotten about, inc the teeth. I took them to a collectables shop and learned each tooth was an exceptional specimen. I was offered 400 bucks for each, then 600 when I said I'd keep them..

We never did find out what happened to the one I gave Grandad. Dad said it wasn't in Gramdma's estate inventory when she passed away.

(And during the Gulf War, we found archaeology treasure in KSA...part of a fortification engineers dug up when they were siting a bunker in the middle of nowhere. A Saudi and a French archaeologist, neither who liked Americans much, said it was Bronze Age, they were excited..it could be a significant excavation..And blamed us for not stopping immediately when the 1st cut stone came up on a backhoe...and ordered Command to fill it all back in and dig elsewhere on behalf of His Majesty.

There is treasure.
Terry Herbert scored!
I may well be one of those old farts 30 years from now, prowling Spanish beaches or Philippines scrublands.."beep-beep-beep" perhaps the last thing I ever hear when the final faceplant happens.

Shanna said...

Saw this the other day. Pretty cool! Can't wait to see more of the stuff.

Bissage said...

(1) Sure, MadisonMan, but then you’d have all kinds of hassles trying to decide whether to wear it on a chain, or keep it in your pocket, or – God forbid -- wear it!!!

(2) Speaking of unspeakable evil, young Bissage once committed an inhuman atrocity. I was 12 and my spoiled brother was 9 and we were down the Jersey Shore. My mother rented him a metal detector because, to him, it was THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!!1!!!!1!!!!!!!!

He spent the entire freaking afternoon searching the beach but he found absolutely nothing and he was feeling completely dejected. So I asked him if I could try. He said no about a thousand times before he relented.

So I fire the thing up and make a big display out of finding a dime in 15 seconds flat.

He starts bawling so hard I never had the heart to tell him I’d dropped it there, myself, when he wasn’t looking.

I am going straight to hell.

AllenS said...

In 1965 I worked at the Minnesota State Fair picking up trash after they would close around midnight. I found a wad of cash with rubber binders around it. $420. I didn't tell a soul.

MadisonMan said...

Cash I would turn in, and have. I don't need the bad karma of spending someone else's lost money.

But a centuries old relic without a curse placed upon it by pagan priests when it was cast in the fires of Mt. Doom? (Well, that last part I'm assuming) -- I'd keep one no problem. I'd never do anything with it. You find all these relics, why not?

AllenS said...

MadMan, when you're making a $1 an hour, you need it more than the person who lost it. I had rent to pay.

Bissage said...

Sounds like Algon . . . errr . . . AllenS got his karmic reward!

Speaking of karmic rewards . . . Buck buys donuts.

Where’s a guardian angel when you need one, anyway?

dbp said...

Is anyone else amused by the picture? Holding these delicate items in white-gloved hands, as if they hadn't survived just fine for many hundreds of years in the dirt.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I don't know where he dug up the word "detectorist" but it would have been better left in the ground.

Cedarford said...

dbp said...
Is anyone else amused by the picture? Holding these delicate items in white-gloved hands, as if they hadn't survived just fine for many hundreds of years in the dirt.


Nothing to be amused over. The gloves are used to prevent contamination of the substrate the artifacts were found in. The dirt will be spectrographically analyzed for compounds that may have affected, thus, impact the analysis of the artifacts.
And the substrate will be analyzed for traces of other materials that may have been in the Staffordshire Hoard, but deterioated over time - fine cloth, incense, spices, etc.

Largo said...

The ears! They bleed!

detectorist??

Egad. I can't recall when I've been more stunned by so ugly a term.

Not mocking the activity, mind you. Detectorism. Nothing wrong with that. No, sir. Nothing at all.

[Though I just now during preview saw that Paul beat me to it, and with breviter wit. Hats off to you, sir.]