The Hoard of Arthur?

In July 2009, an amateur with a metal detector uncovered on of the greatest hoards of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver yet found, buried in Staffordshire, England. The find has now been tentatively dated to the AD 600s--an era to conjure with--and the nature of the treasure does not suggest noble burial, as at Sutton Hoo, so much as hastily-hidden war gain: virtually all of it is military, from helmet fragments to sword hilts, virtually all of it appears to have been used (and recently) as opposed to ceremonial or ornamental in nature, and such things as still-evident rivets on the gear suggest it was ripped from it's original owners hastily, and buried to hide it. 'It looks like war booty,' according to the archeology head of Staffordshire. 'Losing these objects, (a Saxon) king would have lost his status and authority.'

So much is lost and unknown from these dark ages--called the Insular Period in Great Britain as it seems almost completely isolated from events occurring across Europe, about which little enough is even known--we may never know who the defeated Saxon was...much less who conquered him, stripped him and his warband of the objects which demonstrated their power, and threw them into at least temporary disorganization and chaos by hiding away their status symbols. But it fires the imagination to consider literature, folklore and tradition's likeliest candidate.

Modern 'historical' Arthurian scholarship tends to put its favorite candidates for an historical King Arthur earlier than this, into the early sixth and even likelier fifth centuries...and given what the two great historical documents (the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and the History of Gildas) of the era say--or rather *don't* say, at least explicitly--about the dux bellorum of Roman Britain's successful-if-brief turning-back of the Germanic invasion of the isle, they are probably right. There is no shortage of evidence--including in their own literary tradition, the epic Beowulf--of Anglo-Saxon internecine warfare in these dark times.

But could it have been 'the Bear' and his mounted champions of the Romanized and perhaps Christianized British tribes, who struck this blow against barbarism and brute tyranny on the Staffordshire plain a millennia-and-a-half ago? Fortunately for the poet or romantic in us all, the times were too dark to definitively answer no....

'And here we leave Arthur...who was never historical, but everything he did was true.' --Thomas Berger, Arthur Rex

Source: Kate Ravilious, 'Archeology' Jan/Feb 2010, page 22, Archeological Institute of America