Interview with Kevin Leahy

Dr Kevin Leahy is national finds adviser from the Portable Antiquities Scheme.  He has been an instrumental part of the discovery of the Anglo-Saxon treasure hoard in Staffordshire.  We interviewed him by email with a few short questions about the Staffordshire hoard:

So far the public has only seen a small part of the Staffordshire Hoard – I was wondering if you could describe what can be found among the remaining items and their state of preservation when you found them?

The material on display and illustrated on the web-site is typical of the contents of the hoard. There are a few items that have not so far been seen, like some of the helmet fragments from the earth blocks which show human figures, but a representative sample can be seen. The objects appear to have been damaged by folding them, the gold has bent while the silver alloys, being more brittle, have broken. There was not, so far as I can see any attempt to destroy the objects, just to fold them up.

The collection is being taken to the British Museum, which will need about another year to work with them artefacts. Could you describe the measures being taken by the Museum?

Until the material has been valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee and hopefully acquired by the Museums, no conservation or cleaning will take place other than the dismantling of the earth blocks. Once ownership has been resolved a programme of cleaning will be undertaken together with large scale XRF analysis. The material needs to be recorded in its cleaned condition and fully described.

There has been a lot of discussion about the possible nature of the hoard – where it came from, who did it originally belong too – and about the fact that most of the items here come from military items. I was wondering what ideas you might have about the Staffordhsire Hoard’s origins?

This is something that can only be resolved by a detailed study of the finds from the hoard and their stylistic and technological links.

Although it is very early on, do you have any thoughts on what the significance of this find could be for the study of Anglo-Saxon history?

This find is going to re-write our knowledge of the seventh century and the rise of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. In the past our knowledge has been heavily biased towards Kent, with its rich cemeteries and East Anglia with Sutton Hoo. Now there is a mass of new evidence that will allow us to re-evaluate all earlier finds. This so exciting and it has been a privilege to work on it.

 We thank Dr. Leahy for answering our qusetions.

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