‘Mudlarking for Beginners’: My Article in The Searcher

9 Mar


New Permissions

23 Feb

After rewatching the first two seasons of The Detectorists and watching the Christmas special and season 3 for the first time, I was inspired to seek some detecting permissions on this side of the water. I prepared a new letter and finds enclosure and sent out several dozen letters to landowners in the area, including the owners of several historical plantations. On the 21st February I received my first North American permission. I can’t reveal much now, but watch this space for updates coming soon.

The pictures below are from my second permission, near the first, which came in on the 23rd February. It’s a beautiful spot and well positioned in terms of the area’s Colonial history, but the site has been used as a recent midden; lots of can slaw everywhere. I did turn up one piece of old iron and one modern Lincoln penny with a shield reverse. As Mike the Hat used to say, “a coin’s a coin!”

The Secret II: Charleston and Roanoke

23 Feb

These are the images for Charleston and Roanoke, Image 2 and 3, respectively, along with verses 6 and 11. Some hunters believe that verse 5 belongs with Charleston, but the preponderance of evidence seems to support verse 6.

Coins of Colonial America

22 Feb

Due to restrictions imposed on the Colonies by England, coinage was in short supply across the Colonial period. The Spanish real was the most common unit of currency in the Americas. The following overview of Colonial coinage is from J. Howes at

The Secret and the Badger Detective (Dec 2020)

16 Feb

For Hanukkah/Christmas, my partner, Maria, got me two treasure-related surprises. The first was a copy of The Secret (cover and frontispiece below), a 1982 illustrated puzzle book by Byron Preiss et al. It has the character of a faerie bestiary, and it contains twelve images tied to twelve verses — each is meant to reveal the location of a buried casque containing a ceramic key (to prevent detectorists from finding them without the clews). The finder can redeem the key for jewels by writing to the authors’ representatives. Three of the boxes have been found. The most recent was found in Boston in 2019 and filmed as the season finale of Discovery Channel’s Expedition Unknown. One of the casques is meant to be in Charleston, SC, but a Discovery Channel-funded recovery effort turned up nothing on a recent dig.

Maria also commissioned amazing artist Zelda Devon to create the painting below, drawing on my biography and my passion for treasure hunting and for Meles meles. Needless to say, I love it!

Gold Panning with the Girls in Guilford County, NC (7 Nov 2020)

16 Feb

We met up south of Greensboro with Robert of Eureka Gold Panning. He spent the day teaching us how to locate color in the streams of the Piedmont. He showed us how to properly place a sluice and the unexpected places one might look for gold in a streambed.

After several hours of panning, we took the cons and the mats back to his place for cleanup. He modelled his recovery panning techniques (involving a drop of Jet-Dry as surfactant and a rare earth magnet to clean up much of the black sand). He also showed me how to use Google Earth to search for defunct mines within a state — and recommended sampling anywhere downstream from a former mine.

We ended up with some nice color and some know-how!

Desert Prospecting with Dad near Old Randsburg, CA (22 May 2020)

16 Feb

Nugget shooting (or attempting to) on Southwestern Miners & Prospectors Association land in the High Desert. Found some snake shot, shotties, old nails, lead, and iron ore, but no gold. Still, it was the fulfilment of a dream many years in the making, and hopefully only the start of our nugget shooting adventures.

Back in Oxford to Detect and Defend (12-14 March, 2020)

16 Feb

Detecting Oceanside, CA (Jan-Feb 2020)

16 Feb

Archaeologist with Hudson Valley CRC (May 2019)

16 Feb

These pics come from a brief but fascinating stint doing archaeology in the Hudson Valley, New York. An injury ended this opportunity too quickly. Also included is a gratuitous bald eagle pic — we had a nesting pair outside our window in Newburgh, NY, and we got to see the two eaglets grow up and learn to fly!

Kathmandu, Pashupatinath, and Everest (Jul 2018)

16 Feb

This isn’t properly treasure-related (although there is a treasure-seeking component, below). In July and August 2018, I spent several weeks in Nepal tutoring a student and friend, Michal C., who was interested in studying the origins of Buddhism and Hinduism. With expert guides we explored the holy and historical sites of the Kathmandu Valley, and for a couple of weeks, we sat at the feet of Tibetan monks as they explained the rudiments of Tibetan Buddhism to my eager student (and incidentally also to me)! In the afternoons we studied in coffee shops, and I gave Michal lessons on composition and rhetoric.

One of the sites we visited was the temple complex of Pashupatinath, dedicated to Shiva and one of the holy places of Hinduism — a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is situated along the sacred Bagmati River, where during the night, pillars of fire rise up along the banks marking funeral pyres.

In the daytime I caught sight of people wading in the river below the temple with shallow baskets. For all the world it looked to me as though they were gold panning. Our guide let me know, her lips pursed in disapproval, that some impoverished people panned the river hoping to recover bits of gold teeth or jewelry swept into the Bagmati with the ashes of the deceased.

At the bottom of the post are a couple pics of Mt. Everest, not visible from Kathmandu but well worth a 20-minute charter flight to cast eyes upon.