Blues, Boxing, and a Return to the Thames

9 Mar

14 August 2016

On this sunny autumnal Sunday I attended one of the few club digs I have been able to make it to this year, what with commuting between Poland and the UK and an unreliable Rover 25 (since sold for scrap). The dig was near Brookhampton in Oxfordshire, and even with my truncated Deus lite (no remote and only the 9″ coil) I managed to turn up a lace chape, a Roman fragment, and a hammy with its image worn smooth. I also turned up what might me an ancient fastener or toggle, though I lack the skill to date such things.

Boxing Day, 26 December 2016

I spent a warm English country Christmas with my dear friend Gabriel and his family. I could not have been more warmly hosted or better fed. On Boxing Day, Gabriel and I went for a walk and a brief detecting session along the Roman Alley uplands of my permission. Gabriel has been detecting with me a number of times, as faithful readers (you nonexistent folks) will know, but we had yet to find a properly ancient coin. Our luck changed on the Boxing Day ramble.



We found a decorated bit of what might be bronze or copper alloy, which looked for all the world like part of a torc. It has yet to be identified, but there is also a chance that it is a bit of farm detritus from sometime in the last two millennia. I found a stolid lead weight, and then we got another solid signal, digging together and using the pinpointer to reveal Gabriel’s first Roman, a grotty nummus. He took it home and submerged it in olive oil to see about removing some of the accretion.

Gabriel’s Roman


March 4, 2017

I met Ian S____, the Chairman of the Society of Thames Mudlarks, digging his usual great holes near Queenshithe. He and his mate had had a nice Krauwinkel jetton, coming out of the mud looking like burnished gold — nothing else that they would admit to. I showed him the grotty Roman nummus that I had just beyond Millennium Bridge, eyes-only on the north side, and he seemed sceptical. ‘We haven’t had much Roman around here’, he said, and I remembered when I’d been with Steve Brooker and a young mudlark had shown us a rose farthing that he’d professed to have found that day — Steve admired it, but once we’d moved on, he told me that he was sure the guy had kept it in his wallet to show off and not found it that day at all. I got the same sense of scepticism from Ian, and when I enquired again about the Society, he told me the rolls were full and mentioned that the most recently elected member had made a famous find of gun carriages buried in the river mud, as if to emphasise the grandiosity requisite for election by comparison with my own modest discovery.


As the tide flowed and rose, I crossed the river to search beneath the Globe, as the Southwark side is here the last obscured by water. Scraping up near the retaining wall, I found a hammered bronze coin with three fleur-de-lis on the reverse and a laureled head on the front.

It seemed early modern, but I thought perhaps Napoleonic, given the bust. An amateur numismatist in my Twitter feed later ID’ed it as a double tournois of Louis XIII, so early 17th century. The other finds of the day included some modern clad and the decorated handle of a pewter spoon, also found on the north bank.

MCR Mudlark

10 Jul

This morning I met my friends Ed Adkins and Sam Wills at the Tate end of Millennium Bridge for a bit of mudlarking. The weather mainly cooperated and the company was excellent; it was fun to sift the history of the city while performing a Brexit post-mortem with an economist and a historian — like discussing causes of death with our hands in the cadaver.

We scraped on the south side of the river for awhile but nothing of note turned up. When we crossed the Thames we had more luck. Sam found a 17th c. trader’s token of Robert Booth, Holborn Bridge. I had a couple of buttons and modern clad, and Ed collected a handful of pipestems and fragmentary bowls. Sam’s find was definitely the class of the day, not only in our little group; it attracted the envious attention of others on the foreshore, who asked repeatedly to have it out for a look. Definitely one to record with the PAS.

After our lark we had lunch at a pub overlooking the river, and then coffee on the sixth floor of the Tate Modern. We watched the river rise to cover the foreshore where we’d searched, and we looked out over the city, trying to descry the future in the lineaments of its grey stones and steel.

Forrest Fenn Update

5 Jul

“On the Hunt, ‘Where Warm Waters Halt,’ for a $2 Million Treasure” , an article about the Forrest Fenn Treasure, ran today in the New York Times. 

Vicky Brexit London

2 Jul

The title here reminded me vaguely of Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Gabriel and I spent Saturday as part of a 40,000 person protest of Brexit, marching from Hyde Park to Parliament Square. Afterwards we went mudlarking for half an hour on the South Bank, and I was able to offer proof of method, plucking a knackered Vicky 1858 sixpence from the river mud. I asked Gabe to give it to his mum, who is interested in such things — her own mother, the wife of celebrated novelist PH Newby, was a bit of an amateur archaeologist.

Treasure Donated to the Oxfordshire Museums Service

22 Mar


The landowner of my P and I have agreed to donate the cufflinks to the Oxfordshire Museums Service rather than to receive a reward ex gratia following the Treasure Valuation process. It would have been interesting to have the treasure valuation go forward, as I would have loved knowing from independent assessors how much the cufflinks are worth. But donating them at this stage actually magnifies the public good by saving the museum funds it would spend on the appraisal process.

As we went through the donation process, Mr B ____ and I worked with Ian Richardson, Treasure Registrar for the PAS and the British Museum. Without telling us, Ian arranged certificates of appreciation for me and Mr B ____ from the Minister of Culture and the Digital Economy. David Moon, Curator of Archaeology for the Oxfordshire Museums Service, agreed to attach Mr B ____’s name and mine to the donor card for the cufflinks and to let us know when they are displayed in local museums. The Woodstock Museum is currently being remodelled, but they anticipate establishing a gallery section focused on local metal detecting finds when they reopen.


Cufflinks Declared Treasure

3 Mar

This is from an article in the Oxford Times, which I happened across by accident. The last line of the piece indicates that at the Coroner’s meeting a pair of cufflinks were also declared treasure. Those are the ones I found! The landowner and I are now keen to donate them to the Oxfordshire Museum, which has declared an interest in acquiring them.

Treasure hunter finds at least £1m worth of Viking artefacts in Oxfordshire (From The Oxford Times)

On the Baltic

2 Mar

Gdynia, Poland, 6 February 2016

My Polish friend Ania was keen to try detecting, and as Polish antiquities laws are draconian in the extreme, I suggested a visit to the seashore. Gdynia is about five hours from Warsaw, but watching the wintry landscape flash by offered the chance to clear my head.

Once on the beach, we started to get loads of signals with the Deus’s Wet Beach programme, but most of these were bottlecaps from a who’s who of Polish beers. We did find some modern clad, and as The Hat says — quoted often here at EoW — ‘a coin is a coin’. We also found one earring with lots of plastic leaves depending from it (not a keeper).

As we searched, we noticed several mainly elderly people jumping into the Baltic. The air temp was probably zero or near that; lower with the windchill. The water can’t have been much warmer. The bathers turned out to belong to the local ‘Mors’, or Walrus, Club, what we would call polar bear swimmers in the States. Not to be outdone, I stripped off to my pants and jumped in.