Archive | April, 2013

Somerton, OXON (Weekend Wanderers Dig)

28 Apr

I opted out of the Weekend Wanderers dig last weekend in favour of joining an Oxford Blues dig closer to home. This may have been a mistake, as some remarkable finds were unearthed in Somerton by the Wanderers, including this Saxon gold coin:


As a result, I was keen to join when I heard that the Wanderers would be returning to the same fields, plus an additional, previously undetected field owned by the same farmer.

Straight out of the gate, still among the cars, I made a heart-stopping find. I was certain it was a coin, and even Peter, the club director, who rushed over, initially thought it might be a medieval badge. However, a bit of cleaning and further inspection revealed that it was quite modern. By the time I got it home and reasonably clean, my medieval coin had become a children’s club badge, decorated with a couple of racist cartoons. The legend read ‘Cheery Coons Club’, and a little internet research indicated that the badge depicted Eb and Flow, cartoon characters created by Wilfred Haughton, whose strips ran in The People magazine in the 1920s and ’30s (see


At 11.00 am, the club allowed us onto the undetected field. I was punctilious about the time, so I was rather dismayed to find about thirty club members already on the field when I arrived at 11.01. This is why I was feeling rather virtuous when I unearthed a jetton after only a couple of steps on the field:

ImageWhen so many people are working a relatively small area there is a temptation simply to wander over the field. Bolstered by the jetton find, however, I worked a disciplined swath of the field near its eastern border with a small stream. After half an hour, a mid-range signal turned up the find of the day (and my treasure hunting career to this point), a king’s head buckle:

ImageI had the feeling that this was a special find, so I took off one of my gloves and slipped the buckle inside a glove finger to protect it. When I returned to the staging area, Peter and a few of the club oldtimers confirmed that it was a rare find; one fellow suggested that it reflected a decorative trope of the 14th century. Soon a small crowd had gathered, enthusiastically passing the buckle from hand to hand (the first time this has happened for anything I have found)!

I also found a mini flat button and an iron buckle of indeterminate age. Junk finds included two modern bullets, half of a badge reading ‘BABY’, and a sort of modern rivet/ring (top ring?). Kurt and Kathleen arrived rather late, but they managed to turn up a musket ball.

I am eager to turn the king’s head buckle over to the PAS for evaluation and recording. Altogether it was a thrilling day!


(3.5 hrs)

First Time on the Thames Foreshore (April 26th, 2013)

26 Apr

Good friend Dick Holmes was visiting from the Carolinas. He has done quite a bit of beachcombing and artefact hunting near his hometown in Robeson County (arrowheads and other objects), and he was keen to do some searching here in England. We arose far too early (4.45 am) and took the Oxford Tube into London. Low tide was meant to be at 7.51, but when we arrived at London Bridge, it looked to my rookie eyes to be still in full flood. Only when we got to the London flat of Dick’s cousin were we able to double-check times and confirm that it was in fact low tide. By the time we made it back and across London Bridge to some steps leading to the foreshore, we only had an hour and a half until the tide obscured the searchable area.

We made the most of the time we had, however, bending to the work with a will. In short order, Dick turned up some large bits of articulating iron. I found a lovely pottery fragment with a raised flower on it, as well as a (possible) pipe stem [Ed. note: Nope, it was rubber-insulated wire; 28/4/13]. I also found a modern, base-metal ring. Dick found a tile fragment, a large chunk of sea glass, and various bits of nautical ironmongery. In total we collected 28p in modern coinage, mostly corroded. 

Our finds were all eyes-only. We did break out the AT Pro for a moment, just to get a sense of the difficulty. I set iron disc up to 45 and used the sniper search coil. It did work well once I got used to listening ‘past’ the squelches: we turned up a couple of pull tabs hidden several inches down in the gravelly mud. But there were so many objects scattered on the surface that the machine didn’t seem necessary given our time and tide constraints. 

It was a fun hunt, and it was great to spend fair-weather time on the Thames with a mate. The experience also whet my appetite for more larking. Watch this space…

Dick with London Bridge in the background:ImageImageImageImageImage


(1.5 hrs, eyes only)

Northmoor, OXON (April 21st, 2013)

22 Apr

Just a quick couple of hours today along the Thames floodplain in Northmoor. There were very few signals of any kind. I did turn up a largish, corroded buckle which looked quite old to me, but some of the other club members said it was a cable end, likely modern. No one else found anything of note, either. Image

(2.5 hrs.)


Daria’s EoW Theme

16 Apr

Daria watched some Deep Digger Dan videos with Gooey and me, and she wanted EoW to have a catchy lead-in song (D3 uses They Might Be Giants’s ‘My Metal Detector’; if you haven’t seen his MD videos, check out his YouTube page at:

She asked me several times to find a theme tune or to ask Gooey to write one. In the end, she took matters into her own hands. This is what she came up with…

Bronze Ring and Horseshoe Updates

16 Apr

While browsing the Pitt Rivers collection, my mom found this ring that is the spit of the cast-bronze ring I unearthed on my first dig (in Stagsden). If the dating here is correct, the one in my possession may be even older than we imagined. Another reason I’m grateful to live in Oxford: ready access to world-class museums!


My ring, by way of comparison:


And then my parents found this horseshoe in the Ashmolean:


Their discovery caused me to dig the horseshoe we’d found in Stagsden out of the rubbish. My dad said it is extra lucky, because it has been found twice!


Here is the twice-found Stagsden shoe:


Stagsden II (April 14th, 2013)

16 Apr

20130415_201429I dreamed of days like this when I started out in the hobby a couple of months back: my whole immediate family (apart from Tam and Mike, unfortunately) together hunting for treasure. We attended a Weekend Warriors dig in Stagsden, Bedfordshire. It was a significant day for a couple of reasons. It was my mom’s first hunt, and it was the first warm weather we’d had in weeks.

The fields we searched had been searched numerous times in the past, but we still managed to turn up some interesting finds. My dad found a 1930s Efficient Lighter, a small caliber musket ball, and a mostly whole medieval horseshoe (in fairness, despite its coarse shape, I didn’t suspect the horseshoe’s age; I tossed it in with the rubbish while cleaning out my finds pouch post dig, only to dig it up again — out from among spaghetti, and worse things — once my parents noticed a similar six-holed shoe on display at the Ashmolean Museum).

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage20130415_201318 20130416_225736ImageImage

I turned up a couple of flat buttons, one of which was a Standard Treble Gilt button (c. 1825-1865) in quite good shape, two modern 5p coins (!), a Dolce and Gabbana belt retention buckle, as well as a Krauwinckel jetton (a counting token, probably from Nuremberg c. 17th century). Daria found loads of iron with her detector, including a significant chunk of horseshoe and some shoeing nails of unknown age. Aga found a belt buckle (or harness buckle) that we still need to date. Even Hannah found something, a modern 20p which may or may not have been salted into the ground by a helpful parent.

Kurt and Kat found a mini musket ball also, but Kurt tossed it away in the half-jocular expectation that it was a lead fishing weight. He is ready to find a coin. This time around, we were well prepared with Wellies and a hearty lunch, so the day was a great success despite the picked-over fields.

(hours detecting: 7).


Maldon III (April 11th, 2013)

16 Apr

I thought I had finally cracked the code on the treasures surely lying beneath Chelmer mud in Maldon. The answer? Chest waders and snowshoes, which would allow me to dash atop the mud like a Sandpiper.

Kurt had to bow out of the expedition, and I like to think that it was because of his anniversary, and not that he’d been on the two prior trips. In the event, even my dad and I weren’t sure that we wanted to go; we stayed up until 1.30 am, and to catch low spring tide, we’d need to leave Oxford at 4. My dad was the one who suggested we see it through, however.

We arrived to rain, and after choking down a McDonald’s breakfast, we suited up. I had dreamed of using a bucket and classifier to dredge the silt and mud beneath Fullbridge — a Bodleian book on the Blackwater Estuary noted that the site of the bridge was a ford in pre-Roman days — and this time, dressed as we were, we made it all the way down there. Unfortunately, I quickly determined that the shopping cart jutting up from the sludge probably wasn’t of Roman origin. The mud was simply too deep. A backhoe could probably unearth generations of treasure, but I would have to let it go.

We did make lots of eyes-only modern coinage finds. My dad even found a pound coin. We ended up with 1.15 GBP and some corroded iron spikes. We were glad to have taken the journey together, but it appears that Byrthnoth’s ghost will be keeping Maldon’s treasure for awhile yet.

Oh, and the snowshoes? Great it you’re walking along the mud. If you stop for even a moment though, they sink and become cement shoes… (hours detecting: 1.5).


First Dig with Oxford Blues MDC

7 Apr

I had hoped to post this before midnight but didn’t quite make it, so when I write ‘today’, I am actually referring to yesterday, the 7th of April. It was the day of my first dig with the Oxford Blues Metal Detecting Club, on two fields in stubble at a place called Radley, about two miles southwest of Oxford.

My dad came with me as a guest to experience his first metal detecting trip. We only had about two and a half hours, as we had planned a trip to Bath later in the day, but we made the most of the restricted schedule. We took turns detecting and digging, and once the detectorist called out a target, we switched roles, whether the find was rubbish or not.

Within about a half hour, I found my first coin ever. I was sure it was a ‘hammy’, a hammered coin, but one of the old timers said that due to its thickness, it was probably a jetton — a token circulated as money in times of currency shortage. The coin/jetton is so corroded that no image or legend is visible on either side, so I’m not sure that I’ll be able to identify it. Still, a thrilling find.

Soon thereafter, my dad turned up a small-bore lead musket ball. If he hadn’t been hooked on the hobby before then, I’m quite certain that did it. In fact, we were so excited about our finds that we brought Kurt back with us for an additional hour (like children begging for a final two minutes of playtime). We only found aluminium in the last phase, but we did get to see a beautifully preserved Saxon silver penny that another detectorist turned up in the field.

It is remarkable to encounter history in this way — to think, for example, of the fellow who must have dropped the jetton from a pocket several hundred years ago, or the farmer (or soldier!) who fired the ball. Our experiences definitely inflected the trip to Bath, where several hundred Roman coins are on display in the Roman baths museum. During the museum visit, I tended to think more about the metalsmiths, the merchants, the buyers behind the coins than about the objects themselves (though to be honest, some of them were of silver or gold, and dead pretty)…

(hours detecting: 3)

Eynsham and OBMDC

4 Apr

Yesterday I was invited to my friend Gabriel’s house in the medieval village of Eynsham, Oxon, to do some garden detecting with him and his cousin Toby. The house is large and wonderful, filled with artefacts from the travels of Gabriel’s parents and grandparents (one of whom was inaugural Booker Prize-winning novelist P.H. Newby).

The weather cooperated, and we spent two and a half hours detecting, mainly in the back garden. We dug up some interested lead bits and 12p in change (including a 2p from 1979), but the camaraderie and sunshine were the main gains (along with a lovely tea featuring a Victoria sponge cake). Toby, though young, was our main finder of things; most of the strong detector hits came initially from his searching.

In other treasure news, I’ve just heard from the Oxford Blues Metal Detecting Club, who have moved me off of their waiting list and onto the club rolls proper. More details to follow.

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Toby finds the 2p:


Finds of the day: