Bronze Age copper ingots declared ‘treasure’

Bronze Age copper ingots found by a metal detector at Paignton have been officially declared treasure trove.

Archaeologists say the 3,000-year-old ingots are an ‘exciting’ find and Torquay Museum hopes to be able to acquire the heavy lumps of copper, which look like green rocks.

The official treasure trove inquiry by South Devon coroner Ian Arrow heard how Alan Miller, of Paignton, was metal detecting with the farmer’s permission in fields when he found the ingots.

The Herald Express has been asked not to publicise the exact site to protect it from treasure hunters.

Paignton Bronze Age copper ingots declared ‘treasure’

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An afternoon on pasture

This afternoon I returned to my second, 60 acre, pasture permission. As I had found a musket ball and a small spectacle buckle while wandering around at the top end of the first field on my previous visit I decided to concentrate on that area today and to detect it systematically.

It was a warm, still afternoon with hazy sunshine and not a breath of wind. The recent rain had softened the soil below the turf considerably since my last visit so digging and reinstating my holes was generally straight forward.

One of the musket balls and the George VI 1940 florin (that’s pre-decimal 2/-, equivalent to 10p) turned up within the first half hour, the other finds being spread across the afternoon. The long, thin doodah appears to be lead or corroded pewter and is extremely soft. Indeed, it was originally slightly more bent than shown as it straightened slightly in being pulled from the soil. The piece of pottery is something of a puzzle, in that it seemed to give a fairly good signal and there was nothing else in the hole.  I am therefore wondering whether the glaze contains haematite. The smaller doodah gave a lead-type signal but it doesn’t seem to be heavy enough for lead. Another puzzle. The piece of lead which I assume to be a damaged or poorly formed musket ball, or casting waste from same, was found within a few feet of the previous musket balls.

It was, all in all, a good afternoon. My first silver coin, albeit only .500 silver, but it’s a start. And there is the question raised by finding 3 musket balls (and a half) in a very small area.

I had a long chat with the landowner afterwards and showed him the finds so far. He is very interested in the history of his land and showed me a Roman grot which he had found as a kid, though he can’t remember whether it was on this land or another farm over towards Stratford. He marked the perimeter of his land on a map for me and indicated the spot where there are supposed to have been cottages at some point in the past. He said that he was told this when a boy by a chap who was then in his 70s and who was therefore probably born in the 1880s, though it’s not clear when the cottages might have been standing. He was also told that Italian PoWs carried out drainage works on the land during WWII so there may be some evidence of their presence, such as coins and uniform buttons, to be found if the report is correct.

The landowner also pointed to the highest point of his land and said that there was thought to be “a graveyard” on that spot. There is certainly no church there or nearby, nor is there any indication in the online resources available to me that this is a known burial site.

Finds: 1 1940 florin, 2 musket balls, 1 damaged or incomplete musket ball (?), 2 funny-looking doodahs and 1 piece of black glazed pottery.

130925 finds

NCMD Shakespeare Hospice Rally

I very rarely attend open metal detecting events. I’ve been to a few in the past and found virtually nothing at any of them apart from rubbish. In fact on one such I came back with several dozen mastitis treatment tubes and bugger all else. Yesterday however I attended the NCMD charity rally in support of The Shakespeare Hospice at Stratford upon Avon. My finds for the day were precisely two buttons and the usual scrap.

There were around 200 detectorists on some 150 acres of arable land spread over 4 fields. The land had been roughly disked and roughly tilled, both superficially, with large clods of dried clay liberally spread across the surface of at least 2 of the fields. This made it very difficult to get a good rhythm of low swings and there were a few examples of people more or less waving their detectors about like Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Phil. 6″ down was more or less solid, sticky clay of the sort to excite artisan potters. The surface had been baked and the dry shards of clay were like rough gravel when you put your hand on them. The field between the parking area and the registration tent was fairly rough and uneven, but the far field was reported to be much worse; indeed one chap told me it was “bad enough to break your ankles”. It was, overall, bloody hard work.

One field was fairly smooth but both fields I tried were contaminated by broken bricks, pieces of glass (including much weathered, old glass with large bubbles in it), tiles and other roofing materials, pieces of cement or mortar and by small, shapeless pieces of metal which were very light and therefore probably melted alumimium of some sort.

There was a lot of dissatisfaction with the state of the land, including several comments that it would have been better left as stubble. A couple of people mentioned a lot of problems with falsing but that may have been down to their particular detectors. As with all large rallies people had come from all over the place to attend including Sheffield, Brighton, Northants and London, thus incurring significant travelling costs. The first person left at 11.30am; he was an elderly chap with arthritis who had come from near Heathrow but couldn’t cope with the uneven ground. There were more departures over lunchtime, including a group of 3 who went off to finish the day at one of their local permissions, and a few more by the time I left at around 2.30pm, but most people seemed determined to give it “just another half hour” and to “get their money’s worth” as one chap put it.

It’s surprising what people will complain about. I overheard one chap saying it was a poor do that the NCMD had not arranged for a trade stand or a burger bar to be there, and that next year he would be joining the FID instead. Since most mobile burger vans seem to be of the greasy-donkey-burger-for-50p variety that didn’t seem much of a loss. The same chap bemoaned the lack of “fun” aspects to the rally, specifying that there was no token hunt (in which the organisers bury tokens for people to dig up and win prizes for doing so).

By the time I left I’d heard reliable reports of 5 hammered coins, a gothic florin, an unspecified number of Roman grots and a half sovereign. After the rally additional finds reported on one of the forums included a “nice small Saxon cruciform brooch apparently with loads of enamelling intact”, a lead bale seal, a 16th century harness bell and a silver item which may have been a mount or strap end (date unknown). The FLO was in attendance but whether she had enough to keep her busy I have no idea.

Finds: 2 buttons.

130922 finds

Abortive first trip to new permission

I made a first visit to my new permission (Permission 3) this afternoon, intending to spend a few hours on one or both of the fields bordering the Roman road. Things did not work out as expected.

Firstly, the field had been rough-ploughed. Arable fields are best detected either when they still have short stubble or when they have been finely tilled or ploughed and rolled, ready for reseeding. The problems with roughly ploughed fields are two-fold:

  1. The turned soil is loose and contains a great deal of air, and this air means that the detector gets less depth; and
  2. It’s also very uneven, with large clods, holes and so on, so it’s impossible to skim the surface with the detector – again, you lose depth.

Following recent rain, the soil was also incredibly sticky. It clung to the detector, the spade and especially my boots; by the time I’d walked 10 yards from the field entrance it was like wearing divers’ boots.

But there was a further problem – rubble. The field was full of broken brick and tile, lumps of cement and concrete, and pieces of metal detritus. In the first half hour I dug scrunched up pieces of wire fencing, lengths of dexion, handles off paint cans and similar builders’ rubbish. My immediate thought, feeling sick to my stomach, was that this was green waste gone wrong.

Now green waste has generally caused fury amongst detectorists, because at least some of what is being spread ain’t biodegradeable as it is supposed to be, and even that which is biodegradable such as wood and timber, is often contaminated by other stuff such as nails. And once contaminated in this way by metal debris, the land becomes essentially undetectable.

And so, after about an hour, I retired in disappointment and set off home. As luck would have it, I spotted the landowner’s son and stopped to chat. He assured me that no green waste had been spread on any of the land, but that there is a significant problem in the area with builders fly-tipping rubble and debris in field gateways and even inside the fields. So common is the problem that farmers locally have given up trying to do anything with it and now just plough it in. Hence the presence of rubble in the parts of the fields nearest any entrance, but there wouldn’t be any further in. Cue great relief.

I found confirmation of the extent of the problem later on. I stopped by the roadside to have a look at another of the fields, this one without access from the road, and found it clear of anything but pebbles. Close by there were a couple of signs attached to posts – one asking people to witnessed fly-tipping or suspicious behaviour to note down the vehicle’s registration number and to notify the police, and the other claiming that CCTV was in use locally.

I also learned that the farm extends to 1500 acres, though not all on one site.

New permission, partly fronting a Roman Road

I finalised a new permission this morning on a mixed farm. This is one of a handful of farms I had prospected earlier in the year where the farmer had asked me to get back in touch once the wheat or barley was off. In fact I think I’ve left it later than I should have done as some fields have already been ploughed and reseeded, but I reckon I can get up to a dozen sessions in before it’s all out of bounds again.

I’m particularly excited about a couple of fields which run alongside one of the region’s minor Roman roads.  I’m not sure what sort of traffic, or how much, a fairly minor Roman road would have carried but it would probably have remained in use for a couple of centuries after the Roman departure, so somebody must have dropped something alongside it in that time. These fields are currently lying to stubble so should be accessible for a while.

Time to do some reading up on Roman roads.

A few hours’ detecting

Took myself off to Permission 2 for a few hours’ detecting this afternoon – the first session in over a month.

Although the recent rain has softened the top inch or so of turf, below that the soil remains hard and difficult to dig – and even harder to reinstate afterwards. The field is still occupied by both sheep and cattle, and there are an awful lot of cowpats. Annoyingly, the best 3 or 4 signals of the afternoon were all under very fresh cowpats, and when I say “fresh” I mean fresh to the point of almost-still-steaming. Sod’s Law, eh? I spent the session in the top half of this first field, with an hour or so detecting each of three separate areas of the field. The last hour or thereabouts was spent at the far end and it was from this area that the afternoon’s few finds arose.

The spectacle buckle is the first such example that I’ve found. I’m not entirely clear as to the date but it will be somewhere between c1450 and c1700 so it’s one for the FLO. It’s just a shame that the pin, being iron, has rusted solid and spoiled the outline of the buckle itself. The musket ball is also a personal first. I doubt the FLO will be terribly interested in it but I will show her it anyway.

The penny is interesting for the degree of accretion that it has suffered. The date is not clear but appears to be 1930-something. The land was under plough until some 10 years ago, so whether the accretion is due to chemical fertilisers used before then or to urine etc from livestock since then I have no idea.

Finds: 1 musket ball, 1 small spectacle buckle and 1 badly accreted George V penny, c1930.

130910 finds

Man thankful he ignored wife who told him to bin rare Viking ring

A man whose wife told him to bin a dirty piece of metal he found in a field is glad he ignored her after it was declared to be a rare silver Viking ring.

Instead of throwing the object away David Taylor from Co Down, Northern Ireland gave it a good wash and phoned the nearest museum to ask advice.

Almost 18 months on, the dirty object he spotted lying on a stone in his brother-in-law Andrew Coutler’s freshly ploughed field near Kircubbin on the Ards peninsula was today officially ruled to be treasure.

Mr Taylor, who was helping Mr Coulter remove stones from the field at the Inishargy Road, said he was glad he did not listen to his wife Lynda.

“She thought it was a bull ring and said ‘throw that in the bin’,” he laughed after the ruling at a special treasure trove inquest hearing at Belfast coroner’s court.

“I just knew by the shape of it, it was something.”

Man thankful he ignored wife who told him to bin rare Viking ring