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.
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.
After lunch I searched along the pasture land for a quarter of an hour. I found another George V penny (1914),
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):
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).
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:
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.
All in all a tiring — at times frustrating — but amazing day, arguably my most successful ever.
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.