National Geographic : 2011 Nov
gold supplies were dwindling, and silver and silver alloy were being used instead. Similarly, the source of garnets---like gold, a striking fea- ture of the hoard---had shi ed, from India to Bohemia and Portugal. Historian Guy Halsall has estimated the value of the hoard's gold in its day as equivalent to 800 solidi, about 80 horses' worth. Modern valuation of the nd has been set at £3,285,000, or just under $5.3 million. In its own time, however, the hoard's worth was surely calibrated by other considerations. The gold dazzles, but from a practical point of view the most valuable part of the weaponry---"the long, sharp, pointy bit you killed people with," as Halsall notes dryly---is not present in the hoard, and it is possible that the sword blades were cannily retained for reuse. Above all, the pieces in the hoard were forged and buried in a world in which mundane events and acts could be su used with magic; misfor- tune, for instance, was commonly attributed to tiny darts red by malicious elves, and many charms against attacks survive. e magic prop- erties an object possessed trumped its material worth. Gold was valued not only for being pre- cious but also because, alluring and indestruc- tible, it was infused with magic, and therefore used in amulets. Germanic myths tell of the gods' great hall of gold, and as Christian churches and monasteries gained wealth, they acquired golden sacramental objects. In many cultures the very art of metallurgy is magical, and Nordic sagas have vivid details of the smith's magic arts, from Odin's spear and gold ring to or's hammer. Magic may also account for the only three ob- viously nonmilitary objects in the Sta ordshire Hoard: two gold crosses and a slender strip of gold inscribed with a biblical quotation. Chris- tianity first came to Britain with the Roman occupation, faded as the Romans faded, and was vigorously reintroduced to Anglo-Saxon England by missionaries, most from Ireland and the Con- tinent. ere was a "perception of the conversion event as a spiritual battle," writes Karen Jolly, an authority on Anglo-Saxon popular religion. Conversion was a battle for the soul---effec- tively warfare, something the Germanic pagans Handy Weapon A jeweled pommel cap and rings brightened a hilt of bone or ivory (artist's rendition below) on a short, light sword known as a seax (SAY-aks). Gen- erally wielded with one hand, the single-edged seax was more versatile than a full sword, serving as a hunting knife as well as a dagger. A blade of finely patterned iron and steel would have been a valued part of such a weapon, but none was included in the treasure.