Sunday, September 27, 2009

Staffordshire Hoard: "It will redefine the Dark Ages"?

Scholars Already Tying Themselves in Knots?

The Anglo-Saxon treasure that I mentioned two days ago has its own website: The Staffordshire Hoard. Prominently displayed in large font on its homepage is a 'quote' on the significance of the hoard:
"It will redefine the Dark Ages."
I put 'quote' is scare quotes because the original seems to have been less triumphalist. In the Yahoo article by Raphael G. Satter, "Largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure found in UK," which I linked to on Friday, the original quote was given as:
"It will make us rethink the Dark Ages."
The was uttered by Roger Bland, who directed the excavation, and the sentiment was already poorly expressed, for historians these days generally do not refer to this Medieval period as the "Dark Ages," given the negative implications of the expression, which even Wikipedia notes. As Head of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum, Dr. Bland must surely know about this. I suppose that he allowed his enthusiasm to overwhelm his vocabulary.

Oddly enough, the experts at The Staffordshire Hoard site seem utterly unaware that the expression is largely held is disrepute, and they even attempt to ramp up the significance of this already significant discovery by misquoting Dr. Bland in altering "rethink" to "redefine."

They might end up tying themselves in knots in trying to defend their use of this expression in future conferences on the significance of the hoard.



At 3:04 AM, Blogger Roger Bland said...

Perhaps I may be allowed to correct a few things in this posting.

Firstly, I did not utter the comment that the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver would redefine the Dark Ages: that is taken from the press release issued by Staffordshire County Council, which is reproduced on

I would not make such a general statement and cannot claim to be an expert on the Dark Ages - my role is to have oversight of the adminsitration of the find under the Treasure Act.

Secondly, I did not direct the excavation of the hoard: that was carried out by Birmingham archaeology under the direction of Staffordshire County Council, with funding from English Heritage.

The best summary of the significance of the hoard was made by Mrs Leslie Webster, formerly Keeper at the British Museum and the leading expert on artefacts of this period. She said: "This hoard is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England in the seventh and early eighth century as radically, if not more so, as the 1939 Sutton Hoo discoveries did; it will make historians and literary scholars review what their sources tell us, and archaeologists and art-historians rethink the chronology of metalwork and mss; and it will make us all think again about
rising (and failing) kingdoms and the expression of regional identities in this period, the complicated transition from paganism to Christianity, the conduct of battle and the nature of fine metalwork production - to name only a few of the many huge issues it raises. Absolutely the metalwork equivalent of finding
a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells."

At 4:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dr. Bland, thanks for visiting and offering corrections. I've posted your remarks on today's blog entry.

Jeffery Hodges

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