Sunday, November 1, 2015

LOST TREASURES by Shirley Martin


Gold!  My latest romantic fantasy, "Magic Mountain". centers around a hidden cache of gold. Princess Olwen must find the treasure to ransom her brother, held hostage by a neighboring warlike country. Olwen has read of a hoard of gold located in a country far away. She's determiined to find the treasure to free her brother.

But do such treasures exist in real life? No telling what you can find with a metal detector....

In 2009, Terry Herbert parked his car and walked across the road, where he opened the gate to farner Johnson's field. Metal detector in hand, Terry Herbert was looking for treasure, having first obtained the farmer's permission. Walking up and down the field, swinging his metal detector, he heard a buzzing sound. Digging into the soil, he found what at first appeared to be a brass object. From then on, the metal detector buzzed oontinuously, and he found more objects, not brass but gold!  A fortune in gold! Over time, he found 3,500 objects, 75% of which were gold. Jewels shone through many of these artifacts, gems that turned out to be garnets. There were no feminine or domestic artifacts found, only masculine, military objects and religious artifacts. .

Both the treasure hunter and the farmer knew this hoard was not theirs to keep. Terry Herbert's cousin contacted the Birmingham Museum, and soon a representative came to examine the artifacts. The treasure now had a name, the Staffordshire Hoard, for it was found near Staffordshire.

But how and why did the treasure come to be buried in the field? For the answer to that, we must go back almost two-thousand years.

The Romans conquered the island of Britain in the first century A.D., defeating the native Britons. (Celts.) Their rule lasted for several hundred years. But as the barbarians on the continent encroached on the borders of Rome, the Roman legions withdrew to help protect the Empire.

As the Romans left the island, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes moved in, having crossed the English Channel from what is present-day Germany. They brought with them their language, customs, and pagan religions. By the 7th century A.D, they had established their own kingdoms on the island. One of these kingdoms was Mercia (meaning "boundary":). King Penda of Mercia was a pagan warlike ruler who spent much of his time and energy battling neighboring kingdoms near and far.One of the kingdoms he preyed on was Bernecia, whose king was Oswiu, a Christian. In desperation, King Oswiu promised an incredible store of treasure and gifts for the price of peace. King Penda spurned the offer; only a battle would satisfy him.

Oswiu dedicated the treasure to God, should he win the battle. In 655, in one final, cataclysmic battle, Oswiu defeated Penda, who was killed. Oswiu kept his prmise to God, and this is how the treasure came to be buried in Mercia.

We owe this history to the Venerable Bede. (672-735.)

As found  nearly 1,400 years later, nearly all of the artifacts were bent or broken. This situation prevails in other treasure sites. Historians believe the custom relates to a religious ritual.

Tales of other treasure sites in England might pique our interest. In the epic tale of "Beowulf" we read of the hero's fascination with the treasure hoard guarded by the dragon. After Beowulf kills the dragon (not Grendel, another one), he lies dying of his wounds incurred in the struggle with the dragon. He implores his loyal thane, Wiglaf, to bring the treasure to him:

     Away you go; I want to examine
     that ancient gold, gaze my fill
     on those garnered jewels; my going will be easier
     for having seen the treasure, a less troubled letting-go
     of the life and lordship I have long maintained.

It's virtually impossible to give an exact replication of this old English (8th-9th century) epic. Many letters have accent marks over them,and we often see the "a" and "e" against each other with no space between. So the following is an approximation:

     Bio nu on ofoste, paet ic aer-welan
     gold-aeht ongite , gearo sceawige
     swigle searo gimmas,  paet ic oy seft maege
     aefter maddum-welan min aletan
     lif ond leodschipe,  pone ic longe heold.

Alas, it's doubtful if such a fortune could be found on the North American continent, unless the Spanish conquistadors missed a few places as they plundered the Axtec and Mayan empires. But who knows?  Now, if I just had a metal detector...

"Lost Gold of the Dark Ages" was my sourcbook for this article and my inspiration for writing "Magic Mountain."

Please check out my website:   I write historical, paranormal, and fantasy romances. My books are sold at Books We Love,Amazon, Smashwords All Romance ebooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, the Apple iStore, and other sites where ebooks are sold online.