Over the past month, our understanding of England’s distant past has been upended—not by trained archaeologists, but by two hobbyists with simple metal detectors. While prospecting in village farmlands, the two detectorists found clues that could change the way we understand Anglo-Saxon culture, as well as their battles against Viking invaders.
Graham Vickers was prospecting in the farmlands of Little Carlton, a small village in Lincolnshire, when he discovered a silver stylus in a recently ploughed area. Styluses are ancient writing tools, designed to be used on wax tablets. Vickers quickly reported the finding to England’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, which brought in archaeologists from the University of Sheffield to explore the area. What they found changed their understanding of the region’s history—both in terms of human settlers and the natural landscape.