Tag Archives: Oxford Blues

Two Digs

8 Feb

On Tuesday the 3rd February, I went out briefly on my second permission (officially Dig II.1) to search some earth disturbed by an earthmover. I only detected for about an hour and a half, and I found an old buckle but nothing else of note.


Today I went on a Blues dig in Cumnor. More buckles, and I tried out the Go Detect iPhone app for the first time. It’s brilliant! It runs GPS in the phone’s background during your hunt, and by pressing a button you can log and photograph each find as you dig it. At the end of the day you have a map of your hunt and an album of the objects found, as well as precise coordinates for each…amazing! I also found a metal ring, too small to be a bangle, that looks as if it has a pattern on the outer surface. The pattern looks quite uniform, however, suggesting factory rather than hand production.

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Catching Up to 2015

22 Jan

I left New York at the end of summer, and I felt that it was best to sell on my Surfmaster P.I. Dual-Field. I only ever got two hunts with her, so I didn’t learn her ins and outs; I would have liked to, but it didn’t make sense to keep hold of a detector that I used so infrequently. Still, it was a pleasure meeting treasure-hunting legend Mike McMeekin, who sold me the detector. His shop on Long Island, Treasures Unlimited, is a veritable museum of coins and artefacts (more a pirate’s hoard, really).


Back in Oxford in the autumn, I went on a few digs with the Oxford Blues. After renting a car to travel to the first one, I sent round an email to the OBMDC list asking whether anyone might be interested in sharing travel costs. A wonderful fellow named Gerry Townsend responded and offered to take me along with him.

In the event, he did much more than provide transportation. He introduced me to his mates in the Blues (he knows everyone), and he made sure that I felt comfortable socially — actually, it was the first time I hadn’t felt like an outsider with the Blues, as I’d only been on three prior digs with them. This new friendship proved lucky, as toward the end of that Saturday dig (a rarity with the clubs, which mostly dig on Sundays) in driving rain, I found my first Roman coin.

A couple of the old-timers who’d braved the rain thought it might be a Constantine II, but Anni Byard, the Oxfordshire FLO, provisionally ID’ed it via Twitter as a Julian II.

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Musket ball found on the same hunt as the Roman (Fox Lane near Boar's Hill)

Musket ball found on the same Saturday hunt as the Roman (Fox Lane near Boar’s Hill)


A week or so later, Gerry drove my partner and me to the British Legion Hall in Littlemore where the club have their monthly meetings. There is a little bar onsite, so the club members can have a pint and a chat and share round any finds or gossip. I loved it! There was also a find of the month contest and a raffle — I participated in both, but didn’t win either. Anni Byard was present, and she confirmed that I’d found a Julian II…she and another club member who is very knowledgeable about coins went further: It was a Julian II siliqua, and though it had oxidized over the 1700 years it had lain in the ground, the coin was silver! I turned the coin and my king’s head buckle over to Anni for recording with the PAS.

About a month passed, and the holidays were upon me before I received word that the recording was complete. When Anni sent me links to the PAS database entries for my two recorded finds, I felt like I was part of something significant — not just hunting for treasure but joining with thousands of other individuals to preserve and document the history slumbering beneath our feet. Here are my finds to date: BERK-57CD9B and BERK-1DA34A.

A dig on December 7 yielded an object Anni identified as a 16th c. hooked clasp (similar to this one: BERK-47901A). I plan to submit it for recording at the next club meeting.

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I spent the holidays in Italy and the States, only recently returning to Oxford. This past Sunday, the 18th January, I went on my first dig of 2015 (I now have a cheapo Fiat Punto to facilitate transportation). The dig was on land in Stanton St John, quite near a Roman road, and the signals were plentiful. I found a Georgian half-penny (or penny?) straightaway, in bad shape. Then another grotty coin. In the early afternoon, I found my second-ever Roman, though this was grotty and impossible to make out.

Near the end of the dig, my AT Pro started pinging with the high, pure sound that almost always indicates a coin rather than foil or a button. My heart was thumping against my ribs as I caught a glimpse of silver in the muck…my first hammered? Actually, no. I soon realised that the edges of the coin were milled, but no matter. I’d uncovered a George III silver shilling from 1816! I’ve found Roman silver and Georgian silver; now all I need is a hammered! Also on this hunt I found a thimble, which a club member (Bill, the discoverer of the Didcot Hoard kept in the Ashmolean Museum) told me was used by women when bringing in the corn harvest to prevent bruised or bloodied fingertips; a (medieval?) buckle bent neatly in half; a half dozen flat buttons; a chunk of bored lead that may have been used as a whorl; and various other bits and bobs.

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I love this hobby! I would happily do it full time. Now I’m turning my attention completely toward finding permissions: I’ve prepared a letter, envelopes, and a ‘my finds’ insert to send round to local farmers. More on this in the next instalment.

Treasure Hunting with Tom

1 Jun

I’ve just had a week-long visit from Tom Barber, one of my best and oldest friends. He was eager to give detecting a try, so on Sunday (May 26th), we went out with the Oxford Blues to a farm near Brize Norton. Some good Georgian coins came off the pasture, but we didn’t have much success. Tom found a coin depicting an early automobile. It turned out to be a De Dion-Bouton 6 H.P. (1903) coin from the Shell Historic Cars Collection, issued by Shell Garages circa 1970. He also found a 1970 10p coin, before the size change (which happened in 1992, I think). 
(total time: 3.5 hours, though we split detector time for the most part). 

The following Wednesday we tried a bit of Thames mudlarking. It was an overcast day, and we didn’t have much time on the river. We concentrated our efforts on the north side of the river near the Millenium Bridge. The site was rumoured to have numerous pipe stems and bowls, and we did find many of these. Tom also found a human bicuspid and animal teeth of various sizes. Another searcher told us that there had been slaughterhouses and chandlers congregated near the spot where the Walbrook entered the Thames (not far from where we were), which may account for the numerous teeth we discovered. We also met one of the real mudlarks, a member of the Society of Thames Mudlarks, who told me (politely) that I’d be ‘pulled by old Bill’ if I scraped on the north shore, which was eyes-only to all but the society. 

After larking, eyes-only, for an hour and a half, we climbed off of the foreshore and attended A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the new Globe. 



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: