Mudlarking on the Thames (30 May, 2017)

16 Feb

Catching Up (2017-2021)

16 Feb

It has been almost four years since I’ve updated this blog, but I’ve been carrying it forward (and paying hosting fees!) year to year in expectation of returning to it. Well, the time has come.

In 2017 when I last posted, I was living in London and teaching at the University for the Creative Arts in Surrey. Since then I have moved back to the States, first living in Charlottesville, VA, then upstate New York, Oceanside, CA, and latterly in Charleston, SC.

Along the way, to make ends meet (and learn a few things), I worked as an Uber driver, a yeshiva instructor, and a private investigator in NY. I also worked briefly as a field archaeologist for Hudson Valley Cultural Resource Consultants — a job looking at various interesting pre-contact sites, which would have been amazing to continue were it not for an injury.

After my partner, Maria, gave birth to our son, Grimoire, we moved to California to pursue the opportunities of the solar boom. I finished my PhD in early modern literature and defended it right into the teeth of COVID — in fact I was in Oxford to defend in March 2020 when Trump announced the closing of the border.

With the PhD done, we moved across the country once again last summer so that I could be closer to my daughters and take up a position as Visiting Assistant Professor at The Citadel.

There were opportunities to look for treasure here and there. In March, while in the UK, I visited my old permissions with my mate Gabriel. We spent a lovely afternoon hunting, but we only turned up a single George V penny. We followed it with a hearty pub supper.

While in SoCal I searched the beaches near Oceanside, finding only a bunch of modern clad, fishing weights, and base-metal jewellery. I also joined the Treasure Seekers of San Diego and the Southwest Prospectors. Both clubs soon cancelled meetings due to COVID, but my dad and I were able to spend a fun day nugget shooting on club land in the High Desert.

And once I’d made it back East, I took my daughters gold panning in the Piedmont of North Carolina with a salty old prospector, who taught us how to sluice and pan.

Finally, I have just joined the SC Dirt Diggers, who organise club events on land in SC and GA. I aim to detect Folly Beach and elsewhere, and perhaps to locate a permission of my own once I take the lay of the land. I’ve been conducting maintenance on my equipment to prepare. I’ve also just purchased a new Lesche digger (my other is in the UK), and a Lesche Sampson shovel, along with a relic pouch and water finds pouch — I also bought two yards of D600 polyester from which to fashion covers for the business ends of my shovel and sand spade.

I’ll be posting overdue pics of most of the outings above, and I hope to update the site more regularly from now on. I’m still swinging the XP Deus, along with an Equinox 800 I bought while in CA. I also briefly had a CTX3030 after moving back to the States, but my beach detecting opportunities were then limited (and inland I am a Deus devotee), so I soon sold it on.

(Oh, and the Forest Fenn Treasure was found in June 2020)!

Repulse Bay, Hong Kong

2 Apr

On the 2nd April I arrived in Hong Kong, where I will be doing some educational consulting and teaching for three weeks. I decided to bring the Deus to see what I might turn up. Rather than being caught out on the beach without an easy means to dig targets, I also arranged to purchase an Evolution Scoop to bring with me. This was complicated by my schedule, as I was in Poland until Saturday morning when I flew back to the UK, and I was due to fly out of Heathrow on Saturday afternoon. I contacted Crawfords Metal Detectors, and they couldn’t have been easier to work with: for a small courier surcharge, they arranged Saturday delivery in London prior to noon, so I was able to touch down in Blighty, put the scoop in my suitcase, and take off again for Hong Kong. I originally intended to get the round Evolution 360 scoop, but they were out of this model on the day, and they upgraded me for free to the next model, the Evolution Type R Pro Scoop:



When I landed in HK after a twelve hour flight, I felt rested enough (and worried enough about the busyness of my upcoming schedule) to try to get out on the beach at the next low tide. First I needed to find a handle for the scoop, but I didn’t anticipate this being a problem, since the Evolution line can take any sturdy 29mm broom or shovel handle. Unfortunately I didn’t reckon on the dearth of DIY shops in Hong Kong, particularly on a Sunday evening. I googled in vain and even wandered the streets of Wan Chai and Central for several hours, aimlessly searching for a hardware shop.

As I was about to give up, I passed a bar with a pile of rubbish on the pavement outside, jutting out from which were three round staves about the width of a broom handle. On the principle that this was rubbish and available for scavenging, I took the likeliest of the three and repurposed it as my scoop handle.


Low tide fell at almost 8 pm, so it was fully dark by the time the taxi conveyed me to Repulse Bay Beach on the south side of the island. I detected for about two hours using the Deus’s Dry Sand programme. I found a handful of HK clad coins, totalling about 10 HK dollars, or about 1 pound sterling. I also dug the expected pile of slaw and pull tabs. At one point the scoop handle broke — the wood didn’t accept the torque I put on it digging wet sand. Luckily I had a set of pliers with me, and I reattached the now slightly shorter handle and carried on detecting. I had about 20 pounds in taxi travel plus the cost of the scoop to offset, but the thrill of finding even a few clad in Hong Kong was not really quantifiable. I hope to get out again soon!

3x Silver with Deus v4!

29 Mar

Yesterday I had the whole day to hunt my permissions near Oxfordshire. In light of my upcoming return to the States, I really wanted to make the most of it. It was also my first hunt with version 4, the newly updated Deus firmware. I found it to be a silver magnet, quickly netting me a cut half (silver penny cut, for example, to make change) of Edward the Confessor, the Saxon king who ruled England until the coming of William the Conqueror in 1066.

An hour later my Deus sang out with a signal in the high 90s. Usually this means aluminum can “slaw”, so I was shocked after digging and digging to find this massive hammered coin at almost 8 inches down. It is an Elizabethan silver shilling (ca. 1582-84), and by far the largest “hammy” I have ever found.

I was tired by this time, but so excited by the finds that I pressed on. Last of all I found a milled silver shilling of George V (1923) (bottom row, far L).


In addition I found a penny of Victoria (1887) with a lovely patina; one from her son, Edward VII (1902); three coins so knackered that they had no images — probably Georgian, as they take the worst beating in English soils; a pre-decimal six pence; a modern clad 20p; and a Euro 50 cent piece that gave me heart palpitations with its golden glint when my spade turned the soil. All in all an excellent hunt. I find that I am really liking the standard XY display screen with the factory Deep program on v4.

Barren Battersea

26 Mar

I went for a lark beneath the Albert Bridge at Battersea on Sunday. Pickings were slim, and I only found a U.S. quarter (Louisiana) from 2oo2 and a 2p piece. I also saw a heron which became the occasion for ‘flocks’ of  avian puns with my brother and sister-in-law: ‘I’ve been “heron” lots about this new fishing hole’, and ‘I seagull(ible) people like you all of the time’. I should have spared you, gentle reader.

Deus Redux

18 Mar

I used my 9″ coil as a trade-in at Leisure Promotions against a new 11″ coil and remote, so that I would have a full Deus again in advance of the v4 release and new HF coils. When it arrived, I arranged to visit my main permission to test it out. Unfortunately the unit does not come pre-charged, so I just had time for a quick 20 minute hunt as night was coming on. I did get to spend time with my friend the farmer watching Six Nations rugby (France beat Wales with a last-minute try) while the coil charged.

I decided to search near the farmhouse (17th cent.) this time round, and I quickly found a George VI penny from 1938 — I love the green patina they get! Next I found a modern coin spill: 2 pound coin (not too shabby – pays for the bus fare at least!) a 10p and a penny. The oldest coin in the spill was 2001, and all the coins were at about 9 inches under lawn, so they might have been lost in 2001 or slightly thereafter. I also found a flat button.

At the corner of the farmhouse I found this sterling silver bracelet, which the farmer said did not belong to his family.


I look forward to trying the Deus version 4 update on Tuesday. I’ll keep you posted!

Treasure Inquest

11 Mar

The form is crumpled, because it was savaged in my backpack, but the Crown Coroner has reached out to me regarding a treasure inquest for a tiny bit of foreshore gold foil. FLO Anni Byard contacted me about the tiny bit of gold (below), which was turned up by Steve Brooker during my mudlarking taster session. Anni believes it’s part of a more elaborate array that has turned up in pieces on the foreshore.

Forrest Fenn Update III

10 Mar

A recent Vox doc-essay on the hunt for Forrest Fenn:


‘Mudlarking for Beginners’: My Article in The Searcher

9 Mar


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.