An unemployed man has unearthed the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found with the help of his metal detector. Experts are now calculating its value—a process that could take more than a year because of its size.

Terry Herbert from Burntwood, Staffordshire, stumbled on the hoard in a private field with his trusty 14-year-old metal detector. Over five days in July, the 55-year-old dug up a fortune on the farmland near to his home. The find was declared as treasure by coroner Andrew Haigh, which means the cache will be offered for sale after it is valued.

More than 1,500 pieces of treasure—including around 11lbs of gold and 5.5lbs of silver—has now been uncovered. Archaeologists believe the hoard dates back to the seventh century and may have belonged to Saxon royalty. Among the riches are warfare paraphernalia, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates, often inlaid with precious stones.

Leslie Webster, former keeper at the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe, said the find would "alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries."

"(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells," he said.

Dr Kevin Leahy, national finds adviser from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, added that while the quantity of gold was amazing, the craftsmanship was "consummate. Its origins are clearly the very highest-levels of Saxon aristocracy or royalty," he said. "It belonged to the elite."

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