Tag Archives: Roman coins

Two Hunts on Ulmo

6 Mar

In order to talk more specifically about fields on my P, I’ve decided to give them nicknames. I’ve been concentrating recently on a field I’ve called Ulmo. It’s where I took the landowner’s son when he found his Roman (apparently a family of Constantine nummus circa 340 A.D.). On two consecutive hunts (three if you count the one with the farmer’s son), Ulmo has given up Roman. The third day this was a very nice coin with victory on the reverse.

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March 2, 2015

The great find of the day (besides a grotty Roman) was my first Cartwheel penny, so called because of the thick rim around the periphery of the coin. They are massive and quite rare, from the reign of George III. They were produced for three years, but they all bear the mint year 1797. I’ve put the coin delicately into some olive oil to see if some of the encrustations can be teased away without damaging it.

Cartwheel Penny

Cartwheel Penny

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Cartwheel Penny

Cartwheel Penny

March 3, 2015

For this hunt I returned to Ulmo and fields adjacent. In my first hole I dug up the Roman pictured above. Anni thinks it is likely a local contemporary copy, because the victory on the reverse is facing the wrong way. This would make the coin quite rare and potentially valuable. It is currently being recorded for the PAS. Other finds included musket balls (up to a frightening caliber) and my first crotal bell, which happened to be complete. On a field I’ve called Oscar Wilde, I found a little silver-looking (but probably not silver) bow pin, as well as a George V penny (1918) in reasonable nick. Oh, and a fork…

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On Wednesday the Ashmolean Museum held their monthly find identification service. I invited my landowner to come along with me and bring the coin his son had found. The event is a great resource, with Anni Byard and three or four other archaeologists and numismatists on hand at a long table to meet with members of the public and ID finds. There is also the possibility to leave finds with the team for recording. I was very pleased that my farmer friend agreed to do so. The whole thing is like something out of Antiques Roadshow, with four lamps in a row to provide extra light, and the row of experts and the public bent toward each other, heads down over the objects under consideration. I turned twelve objects over to Anni for recording, though some are no doubt modern red herrings. Afterward, the farmer took me out to lunch at a local Thai restaurant. A lovely day all round.

Update: The bow pin found on Oscar Wilde has a lion silver hallmark on the back, so it may indeed be silver after all!

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Three More Digs

20 Feb

I.4 (18 February 2015)

Back on my first P to search some upland, and I quickly discovered a threepenny bit from 1944. Pressing on I found a 1945 farthing and then an older coin whose legend had been rendered illegible. The best find of the day was what I thought to be a medieval spoon (but what may well be an escutcheon cover for a lock from that period):

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Iron Age coin?

Iron Age coin?

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Kat’s version of my ‘spoon’ find (with associated coin to show relative size):

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III.1 (20 February 2015)

I arranged for a fifth permission yesterday, and as it happens, the landowner is himself interested in detecting. We arranged a short hunt together today on a part of his farm where five different historic tracks converge. It was impossible to go one foot in any direction without finding a target, and so many of these targets were modernish buttons, that I soon nicknamed the area ‘Button Alley’. Not long afterward, I began to think that someone had salted the earth with buttons to prevent detecting. (As it turns out, the landowner’s father explained that the fields had once been strewn with ‘shoddy’ to enrich them; shoddy is bits of rag and wool, and many of these would have had buttons attached). The landowner did manage to find a modern pound coin, and I turned up a lovely George V (1918) penny, in excellent condition.

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Many of the larger brass buttons were lovely Air Force buttons featuring a bird and crown.

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Button Alley

Button Alley

Dig I.5

After the morning hunt on the new P(III), I spent a short section of the afternoon on P(I) with the farmer’s son, who was keen to try detecting. We only searched for just under an hour, but I turned up a grotty, illegible Roman, and then he turned up a lovely Roman with the bust on the obverse perfectly visible. He was thrilled; imagine finding Roman on your first day out! I’m certain he’s hooked for good on the hobby now. It was a fine afternoon, and the farmer even surprised me with a jar of homemade honey.

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My grotty Roman

My grotty Roman

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).

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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)

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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.

Video

Our First Dig!

3 Mar

EoW went along today on a Weekend Wanderers dig in Stagsden Church, Bedfordshire. The WW club hadn’t detected this location in a couple of years; the ridge line, known to have been inhabited during Roman times, was generous the last time round.

Kathleen got us off to a proper start when she unearthed the Gato, a cat-shaped bit of lead drippings from a (medieval?) lead foundry. She also found a massive piece of ploughshare. Kurt found a (circa 18th century) flat button, as well as a substantial piece of a beautifully engraved medieval belt buckle. I found a cast bronze brooch/cloak clasp. Our finds were spot-identified by Peter W., the secretary of WW, who has been at this a long time. I also found some sort of fossilized tooth.

We didn’t end up congregating with the others along the Roman ridge, but one of those who did showed us his finds, a Roman buckle and a couple of worn coins including a minim.

This is an amazing hobby! When the detector’s bell goes off, you never know what riches or historical artifacts (or shoeing nails) are about to be dug up!