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

161012-find

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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?

161007 finds.jpg

Photo 2

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

RoofTiles.jpg

Two musket balls and a penny

On Sunday afternoon I headed back to the field I’ve been detecting recently.

I’ve been wondering how long I’d be able to get on it and today I found out. Not for much longer, as it happens, because one side has now been deep ploughed for some 20′ from the edge.

The effect of all the recent rain was plain to see. The cracks in the soil have almost closed up and are now only a few inches deep. More to the point, it’s a lot easier digging and suddenly there are signals where there hadn’t been any before. Unfortunately a lot of them were unmistakeably iron sounds but there were a handful of ambiguous to good signals which kept me occupied for a few hours.

My previous visits had covered most of two quarters in opposite corners of the field so the plan was to do one of the others in some depth and have a cursory scan of the fourth.

After an hour or two spent criss-crossing the 3rd quarter at various angles I’d found a musket ball, an iron ring and a strange strip of filigree-ish metal. My best guess about the latter is that it is possibly the bit from an old oil lamp that sat just below the wick control, but that seems unlikely in practice due to the softness of the metal. If anyone knows what it is, please let me know.

The last field quarter turned up a George III penny, another musket ball (though very poorly cast and probably a reject) and what appears to be a piece of copper alloy slag.

No doubt by now the rest of the field will have been ploughed and I’ve no idea whether it will be possible to detect on this land once it has been seeded. Some farmers seem quite relaxed about it and others not. I suppose I will have to broach the subject.

Finds

1 George II 1806 penny
2 musket balls
1 iron ring
1 piece of copper alloy slag
1 funny-looking doodah

160911 Finds.jpg

Tiptoe through the brassicas

On Sunday I was once again out with The Metal Detectives, this time in Oxfordshire not a million miles from Witney.

The dig site was 150 acres spread over two large fields set at right angles to each other with the parking area in the corner between the two. One of the fields ran for about half a mile right to the outskirts of the nearby village and on paper looked rather promising. The soil was largely a sandy loam and easy to dig, and since there had been a fair bit of rain in the 24 hours preceding the dig hopes were high that the soil had been moistened enough to produce good signals.

The fields had been planted with brassicas, the seedlings of which were anything from an inch to six inches tall, interspersed in patches with the remains of the previous year’s bean stalks. Most of the latter were not a problem but there were enough stumps hidden amongst the brassicas to catch on the coil and cause a fair bit of falsing. I found the site very chattery in places and had to drop Deus Fast to 8khz in a few areas, while in other areas there was no chattering at all.

So what came up? By all accounts most attenders found very little. Around 90 minutes after the start of the dig people started to trail back disconsolately towards the cars from what should have been the most promising area over by the village. Elevenses consumed, most then tried their luck on the second field which in theory should have been the less productive of the two yet most people seemed to spend most of the rest of the day there. Unlike most digs where nothing much comes up, there wasn’t a disappointed mass exodus at lunchtime. In fact, most were still swinging away by mid-afternoon.

In terms of finds, I saw a very nice little Roman bronze coin and a photo of a bronze lion-head mount (age unknown) found over towards the village. There was a report of a denarius. I imagine there was more but if so I’ve not yet heard about it.

My own finds were OK – not spectacular, but I came home with one or two bits which are likely to interest the FLO.

Finds

1 book clasp
1 curtain ring
1 Roman coin – badly corroded
2 buttons

160904

 

A much better detecting session – huzzah!

I have just rejoined The Metal Detectives and had my first recent outing with them yesterday. Needless to say I will not reveal exactly where the dig site was but for those readers who are interested it was somewhere in the Thame area.

The site comprised three arable fields of disked wheat stubble covering 70 acres shared between 35 detectorists. I detected part of one field in the morning and part of a second in the afternoon. Despite the heavy rain and thunderstorms we had last weekend, the soil remains very dry. The first field, which was quite stony in places and produced a lot of “chatter”, was hard to detect and hard to dig more than a few inches down. Genuine signals were few and far between although one hammered coin and a handful of small Roman grots came off it in the morning.

For me it produced a small worked flint blade (which came out of a hole dug to find half a horse shoe) and my first Roman coin – a small copper alloy jobbie which is in pretty good condition with fairly clear detail on both sides.

The afternoon’s field produced my second ever hammered coin – an Elizabeth I halfgroat which has fair detail but looks as though it might have been clipped slightly round the edges. Two Anglo Saxon brooches also came off this field. It was also easier to dig as the soil was less compacted and more powdery.

Now that I’ve had chance to clean the mud off the Roman coin, it looks like a nummus of Theodora (337 – 341 AD) with the Pietas Romana reverse; judging by other Theodora nummi on the PAS  database, mine looks to be in much better condition than many of them so I’m seriously chuffed.

Finds

1 small flint blade
1 small Roman bronze coin
1 Elizabeth I halfgroat

Finds 160831a.jpg

Finds 160831b.jpg

 

Let’s give it another go

We’d had a couple of nights’ rain since my previous permission visit on Thursday. Optimistic, therefore, that the ground might have softened up somewhat in the meantime I decided to give it another go yesterday.

Spade

Nothing doing. The ground was as hard as it had been a few days earlier although superficially it initially looked damper on the surface. I think I mentioned the depth of the cracks in the soil but the disappearing spade says it all. It’s going to take a lot of rain before the soil is back to normal.

I spent about 3 hours wandering around and across a substantial part of the field but again there were very few signals. The prize scrap find was a modern brass tap (“faucet” for the Cousins) of the sort used for field water supplies, still with plastic hose attached; a 19th century machine-made square cut nail; and a fossil. I know. A fossil. The Deus is good but it’s not that good.

The fossil appeared when I dug a piece of scrap. I think it’s Gryphaea (aka the “Devil’s Toenail”), a bivalve mollusc which was around from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous, but if anyone knows otherwise please let me know.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get my spade sharpened.

Finds

1 19th century nail
1 fossil

Nail and fossil

First detecting session in ages

Righty-ho. I see it’s getting on for a year since I last blogged. In fact it’s about the same period since I last went out detecting. Life and things. You know how it is.

So I finally took myself off for an afternoon to the largest permission I have, around 1500 acres of mixed use but mostly arable. By sheer good luck I was finally able to get on the field I’ve been eyeing up beadily for several years. The landowner tends to harvest and then plough and reseed very quickly so there is only a short window in which to get onto the land. Last year this particular field was sown with broad beans and the year before that with rape, and since the bean and rape stubble didn’t have chance to rot down before being ploughed and reseeded detecting it had been nigh on impossible.

This year it had been sown with barley and the crop was off. Huzzah!

Excitement however was quickly dashed. After weeks with almost no rain the soil was so dry it was split by crevasses you could lose a dogsled team down and digging it was next to impossible. Which also meant there was minimal conductivity. I know this field has not been detected as the landowner assured me this was so; moreover it is not accessible by nighthawks so whatever has accumulated over the centuries is still there and waiting to be found. But other than a bit of chatter there was almost nothing.

And it was quite a lot hotter than the weather forecast suggested it would be. And I managed not to take any water with me. Idiot. After an hour and a half I called it a day and staggered back to the car, thirsty and headachy with the heat, sun and dehydration. The whole farm needs a decent amount of rain to both soften up the soil and improve the conductivity before there’s much point going back. Fortunately rain is forecast for the next few days.

Finds

1 x 1860 halfpenny
1 x 1875 halfpenny

Victorian Halfpennies