Archive | March, 2015

Deus Ex Machina

30 Mar

So today I finally took it for a spin. The Deus. I’d watched countless hours of videos to get ready for the moment, and now it had arrived. The Deus, me, and a field called Noah that was destined to produce medieval coins and relics.

I had a couple of programs that I’d taken from videos by Gary (Gary’s Detecting) and Ged ‘Peacehavens’ Dodd, and I went for a lazy, short (<two hours) hunt to get to know the machine.

And what a machine! Setup is a dream; the tones are crisp; it weighs less than nothing; and I can already tell that it will be deeper than Baikal.  My first-ever signal was this nut:

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Not long after, only fifteen minutes in, I found my first coin, a Victorian ha’penny of 1891. A good omen, I thought.

Just two steps away, I found a Georgian (possible) penny, but I’m not sure which George.

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I also found the above rotted and rusted penknife, a watch face, bronze ring, and strangest of all, a thimble with a clay marble wedged inside it. Once I got home, I soaked the thimble in olive oil for a couple of days in order to loosen the crud and patina holding the marble in place. Eventually out it popped.

Update, 10 April 2015: At the Blues club meeting this evening, I showed the thimble with marble to my FLO, Anni Byard. It triggered something in her memory, but she couldn’t say precisely what, only that this wasn’t a sui generis phenomenon; she’d heard of marbles in thimbles before. Later on I found a similar object on the Metal Detecting Forum (MDF). My best guess is that it reflects a child’s ball-in-cup game or a bit of residual superstition.

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End of the (AT Pro) Era…

25 Mar

I’ve sold my AT Pro, as well as my C.Scope CS3MX. They have been good detectors, and I’ll miss them both for different reasons. The first, especially, has been good to me. It took some time, but with the AT Pro I found my first Roman (and then other Romans), my first silver, and finally, my first hammered coin (the Henry III voided longcross). The C.Scope was a reliable backup detector, good to have for friends or family who wanted to detect.

They both held their value well, which is fortunate for me as I move to upgrade to the XP Deus. At the end of the day, I’m convinced that my P is one of the best in the country, offering up Celtic, Roman, and medieval antiquities. The AT Pro just isn’t going deep enough. But as I let it and its partner detector go, it is with my wishes that they continue to find interesting bits of history (and treasure) for their new owners.

Silver Tally

19 Mar

I’d like to keep a running tally of my precious metal finds. So far these have only been silver. In finding order they have been:

– Julian II siliqua; NOV ’14

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– George III shilling (1816); JAN ’15

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– sterling silver bow tie pin; MAR ’15

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– Henry III voided longcross penny; MAR ’15

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– sterling silver heart locket; MAR ’15

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– Elizabeth I three farthings (1575); MAR ’15

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– Antonianus of Gordius III; MAR ’15

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– blank broken silver coin worn smooth; MAR ’15

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– Elizabeth I silver penny (Spinks 2558); 2 April 2015

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– blank silver coin fragment, worn smooth (found near ‘Roman Alley’; 6 April 2015)

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– Victoria sixpence (1901); 12 April, 2015, on club dig in Cumnor

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– Hammered silver penny (some say Lizzie; I think Henry); 25 April 2015, Thames near Greenwich

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NB: Also found on the Thames were a 1943 ‘silver’ U.S. nickel and a 1964 Sierra Leone five cents, but both were found by Mud God, so they don’t enter my count.

– Edward hammered silver penny; 28 April 2015; Saunderton, Wycombe District

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– Cufflinks commemorating marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza (1662); found in Reedy Crown field, 8 May 2015 (deposited under Treasure Act)

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Longest (and Most Successful) Hunt

19 Mar

18 March 2015

As I have a significant thesis milestone coming up at the end of the month, I won’t be able to get out as much as I’d like. Therefore I wanted yesterday’s hunt to be special: I wanted to spend a lot of time in the field and find at least one object of historical significance.

I set off at eight am through a dense fog, which didn’t lift until around ten. For the first couple of hours I could only see the ground at my feet; it felt like I was detecting in a cloud. I started off by traversing Peter Quince to reach Falstaff. The only thing I found along the way was a tiny buckle. On Falstaff I turned up my first real find of the day, a George V penny (1919):

I moved onto Sir Thomas, a field that was to play the central role in the success of the day’s hunt, but all I found after twenty minutes of swinging was a lead bag seal, pressed with an ‘E’ on one side and ‘BOWLEYS’ on the other.

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Hankering to try something new, I walked across a newly planted field and made my way to some pasture near the farmhouse. There under a lone, winter-barren tree, I ate my lunch in the sunshine.

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After lunch I searched along the pasture land for a quarter of an hour. I found another George V penny (1914),

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as well as a ten ‘New’ pence piece (1979), one of the post-decimal but thicker ones.

It was now edging towards two o’clock, and as I had been detecting, digging, and walking since eight, my spirits were beginning to flag. Still, I decided to press on; your detecting luck can change in an instant, and one great find changes the whole feel of a day (also, as my friend Gerry says, even when detecting is muddy, cold, and fruitless, it’s still ‘good, clean fun’). I turned back to Sir Thomas, knowing that I’d found that spectacular silver antonianus there just two days before.

After awhile I found a damaged buckle, possibly medieval (similar to this one, but without the finish):

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In a bid at self-psychologising, I tried to tell myself that this, at least, was a fascinating find — that this is what I’d spent six and half hours searching for. But the attempt didn’t take. I moved out across the field again, willing a spring into my legs despite my badly pulled groin (I think from crossing a fence days earlier). Not long later I found a cut or broken piece of coin, maybe with some silver content, too damaged to see anything on it. Again I told myself that this was more like it. Except it wasn’t. I thought about returning to the car and trying to get home before close-of-business traffic.

But then I found a Roman coin! Sure, it was a small and illegible nummus, but it was definitely Roman, something for the eventual collection I hope to turn over to a local museum.

As it turns out, that was just the beginning. As a fisherman, frustrated for hours, might hit a honey hole and begin landing fish after fish, I was suddenly on top of Romans. I breathed an actual sigh of relief as I pulled this antonianus (of Allectus?) out of the soil:

Five minutes later and just ten meters away, I got a cracking signal reading 81 on my AT Pro’s VDI. 81 almost always means aluminum can — I mean, it has ALWAYS meant that for me. But for some reason, probably the new-found buoyancy at digging the antonianus — I decided to take a shot. And out popped a coin with a beautiful glowing-green patina that felt as heavy and thick as a skipping stone in my hand. Another Roman, and so huge! I didn’t know what it was, but I suspected a follis or sestertius (it turns out it was a sestertius, probably of either Marcus Aurelius or Trajan).

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Obverse of Anotonianus of Allectus

Reverse of Antonianus of Allectus

Reverse of Antonianus of Allectus

While I was talking to my family via Whatsapp to tell them about the finds, I found another nummus. Four Romans! The tally finished as I recrossed the field after picking up my jacket, which I’d abandoned in the afternoon warmth: a tiny minim, the smallest Roman denomination. Later, I thought the five Romans looked quite nice ranged from largest to smallest:

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I didn’t get onto the Romans until after 3:30 pm, at which point I’d been detecting for seven and a half hours! Persistence definitely paid off, and it was a worthy hunt to lead into the (reluctant) time off from the hobby.

I’ve been noticing lately that I average about a coin an hour. Strangely, this ratio seems to hold regardless of the type of coin or the terrain. And it was true of yesterday as well: I hunted almost exactly ten hours, and I finished the day with a sestertius, an antonianus, two nummi, a minim (five Romans altogether); two George V pennies; a modern 10p; a cut, unidentifiable hammered coin or jeton; and a Victorian ha’penny of 1901, the year she passed. I found this near the Roman zone, just after finding the second nummus.

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All in all a tiring — at times frustrating — but amazing day, arguably my most successful ever.

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UPDATE: Silver!

I cleaned the smooth and knackered half-coin I found yesterday and did the ad hoc silver test (spit in tinfoil which reacts to the tarnish)…turns out it is silver! So I had a silver coin (what was left of one) yesterday as well.

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Toy Cannon

17 Mar

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Thought I’d undertake a short hunt today on Peter Quince; swing until I found the first museum-worthy artefact. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I ended up spending four hours, and although I made several interesting finds, none was of the drop-dead variety. The most unusual was this toy cannon with the burst barrel. At first I thought it had been plough nicked, but once I got it home and cleaned it, it became obvious that this had once been a working toy (health and safety regulations were different back then)! There was a functional bore and vent, and swabbing with a Q-tip revealed black powder residue in the bottom of the bore. Some long-ago kid must have overcharged the thing, or it had its barrel partially obstructed and burst — hopefully the onlookers stood well back! Other interesting finds included part of what might be a simple fibula brooch:IMG_0872

a beech leaf worked in copper:

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what seems to be a pot handle; various buttons, including a possible medieval one; a knackered Vickie penny (1863) and a Georgian ha’penny (unclear which George). Finally, as I was leaving the field at midday I found a jeton, probably Nuremberger as it appears to have the imperial orb within a tressure of three arches and three angles on the reverse:

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The tally, buttons to the R

Three Roman Hunts

17 Mar

Friday the 13th

This was the day of the monthly OBMDC meeting, which happened also to be the Annual Group Meeting, and I tried to sneak in one last hunt before the evening, so that I’d have more to record. I wanted to be on pasture rather than battling mud, so I selected Oscar Wilde. I was also keen to see if it had any Roman to offer up, given its proximity to Ulmo where I’d had Roman luck.

Did it ever! By the time my short hunt was finished, I’d found five Romans: two have some sort of visible image on them, a bust and what looks like a dolphin, respectively; I’ve prepped them for PAS recording in hopes of ID’s. Two more are grots, and the last is only potentially a grot — it could also just be a grot-shaped bit of nonferrous metal. While digging what turned out to be a chunk of lead, I also found, eyes-only, a bit of garnet that looks like it might be a Celtic intaglio, or engraved material.

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I also found a bit of embossed copper alloy that may be a bracelet; a lead bag seal; a bronze oak-leaf badge; a lead weight (actually found in Reedy on the way back); the usual buttons, buckles, and musket balls, and some strange, massive bits of lead as pictured:

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Besides the Romans, my favourite find was a little heart-shaped padlock in sterling silver, complete with a silver lion hallmark on the back.

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Though Anni wasn’t at the club meeting, I did have a chance to compare finds with the other members. I also won a prize in the raffle, selecting this book from the prize table:

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The Ides of March

The other day I’d seen that a field I call Peter Quince was being ploughed, and I thought I’d try my luck.

Clearly Caesar’s oracle didn’t apply to me, as about midway through the field I found my second-ever silver hammered! This was a tiny coin, lying on the surface. The obverse looked blank, but later when I viewed it through a jeweller’s loupe, I could plainly see Queen Lizzie and a rose. The reverse is quite clear, featuring a shield and the date, 1575. Probably a three farthings or a farthing, considering the minuscule size. I was thrilled finally to have a coin from my research period.

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Not long afterward I found a lovely fragment of Roman coin, with a nose and eye in profile plainly visible. If only the coin had survived entire, it would be a thing of beauty. The fragment was hard to isolate from the mud and gave a very iffy signal; I’m glad I stuck with it.

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After finding a few other bits and bobs, I crossed into Falstaff, which had also been ploughed. My hunch paid off, as no sooner had I started detecting in the corner of the new field than I found my finest Roman to date, a Claudius II Antonianus.

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Also in this field I found another spindle whorl, a couple of pennies, Edward VII (1907) and George V (1920), and a George V ha’penny.

Edward VII Penny (1907)

Edward VII Penny (1907)

Perhaps most interesting of all (besides the Antonianus) was a lead seal or medallion, quite haggard at the edges, featuring Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in profile on the obverse, and a crown and the royals’ names on the reverse:

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Can you make out the faint profiles?

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Returning to Peter Quince I got a strong signal for a Victorian ha’penny in very nice nick (1872).

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Overall, my best hunt so far, I believe.

Peter Quince finds

Peter Quince finds

Falstaff finds

Falstaff finds

Roman Romanorum (16 March 2015)

It was raining this morning, so although I was keen to follow up yesterday’s fascinating finds, I was reluctant to face the newly turned earth of Peter Quince. Instead I started out in pasture on a little field in near the farm buildings that I call Charlotte Shed. I found a nice button with the legend ‘Water WLB Lane’ (apparently once a brand of workman’s trousers), an old, possibly Victorian coin, much abraded, a modern 10p, and a pre-decimal three pence.  FullSizeRender_2

In the end I thought it would be better to be muddy and in the finds, then clean and targetless, so I made my way over to Sir Thomas, another field that had recently felt the plough. I hadn’t been detecting long, maybe an hour all in, when I saw silver winking at me from the rocky hole I’d just dug. It proved to be my most exciting find to date, an antonianus of Gordius III (c. 242-244).

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I was so excited when I turned this up that I spent a half hour or so on the spot, digging down to see if this was some outlier from a deeper hoard. Alas, it appears the coin was a singular pocket drop; in any case I didn’t find any other signals in the area.

Later on the periphery of the field, I found a beautiful lead bag seal featuring an oyster shell on both sides:

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One target I dug turned out to be the hollow leg (in a stirrup) of what must once have been a lead toy.

Bag seal and lead toy leg.

Bag seal and lead toy leg

I also found a bit of patterned copper-alloy wire that may have been a bracelet:

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A picture of my Sir Thomas finds, including the obligatory buckles:

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Update: Long Circuit Hunt

11 Mar

I enquired at the British Museum regarding the tiny aluminium tag I found:

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One of the BM staff soon emailed to let me know the following:

Thank you for your enquiry. It looks like you have found a pigeon tag. These have no connection to the activities of the British Museum, even though its name appears on them.

There is a website providing a list of contacts for lost racing birds, which includes details of who to contact in the event of finding a ‘British Museum’ tagged bird: http://www.birdman.co.uk/Stray_Birds.htm.”

So the mystery is solved. I do wonder if my pigeon perished in that field though.

I’ve just had (7 April 2015) a further update from a different department of the British Museum. Virginia Smithson of the Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory, has written and passed along a link to a description of bird ringing activities in Britain. This information can be found on the target page:

Why are there some rings with Brit Museum on them?

Historically, the British Trust for Ornithology has used the address Brit Museum NH, London, SW7. This refers to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London and not the British Museum, which does not have any involvement in bird-ringing. This address was used because the words London and Museum are easily recognisable, even to those who do not speak English.