Alexander, Caroline. Lost Gold of the Dark Ages: War, Treasure, and the Mystery of the Saxons.

Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2011.

In the summer of 2009, Terry Herbert, a hobbyist treasure-hunter with a metal detector working over a pasture near Lichfield, Staffordshire, discovered probably the greatest Anglo-Saxon gold and silver horde yet found — more than 3,500 objects hidden away sometime in the 7th century, possibly during the reign of Penda of Mercia, who was killed in battle by the Northumbrians.

The majority of the pieces are related to battle regalia of one sort or another, with a few altar crosses and other religious pieces added in. Alexander, a scholar in the Classics and also a regular contributor to National Geographic, uses the horde (the detailed study of which has really only just begun) as the jumping-off point for a coffee-table-type survey of the whole pre-Norman history of the Midlands, from the Roman incursion and the Anglo-Saxon invasion and settlement to the Viking raids (and semi-settlement) and the end of the Anglo-Saxon period at Hastings. As such, it’s a well-written and informative history, especially for the novice. And the fact that it’s published by National Geographic guarantees a very high quality of the pictorial elements.

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