Intricate jewelry found buried in a Staffordshire field is the earliest example of Iron Age gold ever found in Britain.
The collection, made up of four twisted metal neckbands, called torcs and a bracelet, was discovered by two metal detectorists just before Christmas.
Experts say they would have been owned by wealthy powerful women who probably moved from continental Europe to marry rich Iron Age chiefs.
The pair who discovered the find had swept the field 20 years earlier and uncovered nothing. But after abandoning a fishing trip to go treasure hunting they came across the horde, which could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The torcs were buried nested together and archaeologists believe they may have been buried for safekeeping or as an offering to a God, or an act of remembrance for someone who had died.
The latest discovery which was found about 45 miles north of Hammerwich, near Lichfield - the site the 2009 Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard find, which was officially valued at £3.2 million.
That seventh century find, which dates back to the Kingdom of Mercia, is made up of 3,900 pieces of precious metal, currently on display in UK museums.
Unveiling the new torcs at a press conference on Tuesday experts said the unique find could date back as far as 400BC and was of hugely significant and could reveal new details about the movement of Iron Age communities.
"This unique find is of international importance," said Dr Julia Farley, Curator of British & European Iron Age Collections for the British Museum.
"It dates to around 400–250 BC, and is probably the earliest Iron Age gold work ever discovered in Britain.
“The torcs were probably worn by wealthy and powerful women, perhaps people from the continent who had married into the local community.
"Piecing together how these objects came to be carefully buried in a Staffordshire field will give us an invaluable insight into life in Iron Age Britain.”
The find was made by friends Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania.
“We weren’t expecting to find anything. I was just about ready to give up for the day when Joe said he thought he had found something," said Mr. Hambleton. "We both looked at it and were speechless.”
After searching around the area they found the three remaining torcs.
Mr. Kania added: “We have found the odd Victorian coin, but mostly it has just been junk. So I couldn’t believe it when I picked out this mud covered item and on cleaning it off, I thought this might actually be gold.”
The pair contacted the landowners and Mr. Hambleton was forced to sleep with the finds by the side of his bed before he could take the pieces to show Teresa Gilmore, a finds liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme at Birmingham.
“I kept the gold right next to my bed to make sure it was safe until we could hand them in to the experts," he added.
"I used to go metal detecting with my dad when I was young and he said to me “why are you bothering fishing? You should be back in those fields.
“I am so glad we took his advice and pleased of course that he got the chance to see these amazing pieces and prove he was right all along.”
The pair had been given permission to search the land by owners, the Heath's, and if the find is declared treasure it will be sold and split with the family.
Stuart Heath, who farms 640 acres of land in the Moorlands, said: “Mark has detected on our land before and it is amazing to think these gold pieces have been lying undiscovered since long before we farmed here”.
“Archaeologists have surveyed the site and all though this is very much a one- off find, we will all be fascinated to hear more about how the collection found its way from Europe to Staffordshire thousands of years ago.”
Archaeologists from Stoke-On-Trent City Council led the site investigations on the farmland in the Staffordshire Moorlands and say it is a “complete” find with no evidence of any other pieces on the land.
“This amazing find of gold torcs in the North of the county is quite simply magical and we look forward to sharing the secrets and story they hold in the years to come.”
An inquest will be held in North Staffordshire on Tuesday and Coroner Ian Smith will rule if the pieces are treasure.
Staffordshire County Council Leader, Philip Atkins, said: “As a county and as a council we are both proud and unbelievably lucky to be home to some truly exceptional finds, including of course the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold.
Courtesy: The Telegraph