Treasure could be worth small fortune

The aestel found in a field in the York area. (S)
The aestel found in a field in the York area. (S)

An ancient Anglo-Saxon trinket, found by an amateur treasure-hunter, could be worth a small fortune.

This gold object, discovered in a farm field near York in January, has been declared treasure at an inquest in Harrogate.

It is believed to be a gold aestel, a pointer used by Bishops for reading books, and could date from the 9th century.

“It’s the find of a lifetime,” said stunned amateur metal-detectorist John Pawson, who made the discovery.

The aestel is made from gold and was once globed shaped. It has now been squashed flat on one side, but its crossed wires and spiral decorations are still clearly visibly.

The aestel is being kept at the British Museum as it awaits valuation, and York Museum has already expressed an interest in buying it.

Nobody yet knows what it could be worth, but aestels sold to museums in the past have gone for between £100,000 and £400,000.

“I’m not in it for that at all,” said Mr Pawson, of Knottingley.

“It’s more important for me that it’s on display at York Museum.”

Mr Pawson, who works in the energy industry, has been metal detecting with a club for four years.

He has found bits and pieces over that time, but never anything as spectacular as the aestel he found in a farmer’s field on January 15.

“I knew it was something special, but I never expected this,” said the 60-year-old.

“I dug the earth over and part of it fell away. I could see the gold. I thought ‘my goodness, what could it be’.”

“It’s only a tiny object but my heart stopped.”

The next stage is for the independent treasure valuation committee to recommend a value to the Secretary of State.

Once agreed, the museum will have the chance to buy the aestel and any fees will be split between the landowner and Mr Pawson.

“It means more to me to be able to take my daughter and say ‘your daft old dad found that’,” said Mr Pawson.