A prison warder and a Roman coin

I last went out detecting a couple of weeks ago for an afternoon’s swinging. Having tried the big triangular field along the road the previous time without much success, I wanted to try the much smaller one beyond it, a good 400 yards from the road. Since the ground was dry I decided to risk driving along the edge of the field big field to park up close to where I wanted to start. The grassed field margin had a few ruts and potholes but was perfectly drivable for an ordinary family car providing it was taken slowly.

The further field turned out to be stubble of varying lengths, from an inch or two up to some 6″ long, and although it hadn’t been ploughed it was uneven enough to have to watch where I put my feet. Over the course of a couple of hours I managed two full lengths of this rectangular field and a few toings and froings across the width of it but with very few signals of any sort. The only find was a rather corroded Roman copper alloy coin.

After an hour or so I was hailed by a dog-walker who came over to ask how I was getting on. I showed him the Roman coin I’d found and he was suitably impressed. We chatted for a while and he turned out to be a warder at the not-too-far-away Long Lartin high security prison (the one where they remand many of the actual and wannabe jihadis) on his day off. He’s been walking his dogs (one of them being one of the prison dogs on his day off) along the edge of this and other fields on many occasions and has never seen any other detectorists.

Shortly after he’d walked on and round a corner the heavens opened. The first of the afternoon’s forecast “showers” turned out to be a 15 minute downpour with horizontal rain. I got soaked and started detecting in the direction of the car. And then it stopped and the sun came out, albeit briefly. Just as I decided to carry on detecting it chucked it down again and I beat a hasty retreat. With all the gear in the car, I bumped my way back down the side of the field, this time half blinded by the rain. No sooner had I reached the road than the rain stopped and the sun came out again. It didn’t last though and quickly clouded over and became quite dark.

This turned out to be another very quiet field, though to be fair I only detected for a couple of hours. Even so, apart from the usual background chatter in some parts there were few signals of any kind – a handful of iron grunts and a few digable signals that produced (as well as the coin) a piece of foil, several bits of shredded drink cans, a bottle screw top still with shards of glass attached, and a modern ring off some piece of machinery. The usual, in other words. There were also a few of the orangey-pink ceramic shards noted on the previous visit to the adjoining field, but far fewer in number.

The aforementioned Roman copper alloy coin was the only find of the day. I don’t know if there’s enough detail left to identify it.

Find

1 Roman coin

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First visit to a new field

With new land to try I couldn’t resist a trip out, so after an early lunch yesterday I took myself off for an exploratory visit to the largest of the new fields open to me. I drove onto the largest of the fields, still under stubble, and parked up by the entrance.

With a field this size it’s difficult to know quite how to tackle it, especially when the field is about 40 acres and a strange stretched triangle shape. Round the edge? Straight across the middle? Zigzagging from one prominent feature to another? Eventually I decided to detect parallel with the road which runs past, but about 10 yards in from the field boundary. Half way along that side I turned and cut across one corner and followed the line of a strip which had been deep ploughed.

A little over half way up that side I started to find very rough ceramic shards scattered across the surface. They were a pale orangey-pink or biscuit colour, most with a curved profile as though they were broken pieces of pipe except that they were roughly finished and not glazed in any way so I can’t imagine they were pipes. Besides, judging by the profile of the curve they’d have had to have been pipes several feet in diameter.

So what to make of them? I started to wonder if they are pieces of Roman roof tile. If so, taking into account the quantity I saw scattered around a particular area, it’s possible there was a Roman building of some sort on the site, especially as there’s a lot of Roman stuff in the area. In aerial images of the spot there are no clear crop marks suggesting a former structure, but there is an undefined, slightly darker shadow in the soil. It’s something to run past the FLO when I next see her, but in the meantime does anyone know if these things really could be bits of Roman roof tile?

In contrast with all the broken bits of ceramic, there were virtually no genuine metal signals. I found several pieces of chewed up drinks can, a piece of foil, one modern button and one copper alloy ring of around 1.25 inches diameter. And that was the sum total of digable signals. How absolutely weird. I know the field runs along a road but surely it couldn’t have been nighthawked so completely?

My session was cut short when my phone battery died, as I no longer detect if I am unable to track my progress and precisely log my finds by GPS and photograph them on the spot. I could kick myself, and will now invest in a powerbank so I can recharge my phone in the field.

Finds

Photo 1

1 button
1 copper alloy ring
1 piece of red and pink flint-like stone – jasper?

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Photo 2

Selection of possible Roman roof tile fragments pieces of drainage pipe.

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Some new fields to detect

I took myself off this morning for a non-detecting visit to the 1,500 acre place, most of it under arable, where I’ve been doing most of my detecting recently to get some idea of what land might be detectable in the coming months. Since on my last visit it looked as though the field I was detecting was being ploughed imminently I wanted to agree with the landowner which other fields might be available between now and the end of the year.

As it happens, that field has not been ploughed any further because it was too dry, and is therefore still detectable for a short while pending the resumption of ploughing. I was, however, able to agree three new fields which have not yet been ploughed, totalling some 55 acres, in addition to the existing one. I was also pointed at a further field (30 acres) which I was told was detectable but which appears to have beans coming up.

Usefully, I now have a complete map of the farm with all fields named for future reference so there’s no confusion as to where I can and cannot detect.

Club Dig – Bicester

Yesterday I went on another of the mid-week digs organised by the Metal Detectives. I like these mid-week digs – with a later start so attenders can avoid the rush hour traffic and a smaller group of generally older detectorists, they are even more laid back than the weekend ones. And of course, a smaller group means being able to go on smaller sites than if there are 50 people traipsing about.

The site was around 70 acres sloping across three fields which were easy digging, rather sandy and recently worked with the new crop starting to come through (judging by the remains of the stubble, the previous crop was barley). On a previous visit, these fields had variously produced: Georgian and Victorian material; Roman coins and an Anglo-Saxon gold ring; and Roman coins, and a number of hammered coins along the line of a footpath. This visit wasn’t to be so fruitful, though a few hammered and a few Roman coins did turn up during the course of the day.

After a chilly start, the day was warm and sunny but very windy. At times it was very difficult indeed to hear the signals, partly due to the strong wind, which seemed to become stronger as the day went on, and partly due to the incessant traffic noise from the motorway a quarter of a mile or so away.

As on other recent digs, I spent the morning in one field and the afternoon in another. My first find of the day was the smaller and grottier of my two Roman coins, and my last find was the larger and better preserved of the two. I’m hoping the FLO will be able to provide at least an approximate identification of the small grot, but I’ve had a tentative identification of the larger to Claudius Gothicus (born sometime between 210 and 214, ruled 268-270 CE).

Finds

2 Roman bronze coins
1 copper alloy rectangular ring
1 piece of lead
1 fragment of pottery
1 handmade nail/tack (possibly Roman)

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