Clubs – “They’re only interested in old stuff”

Delivering a package for collection to one of the local convenience stores, I noticed a black guy with tied-back dreadlocks detecting behind the goalmouth on the community footy pitch in front of the store. He was using an entry level Yellow Peril, but unlike many users he was at least using headphones.

So I wandered over to see how he was getting on.

He told me he’d found a couple of pound coins so far – enough to buy a bottle of cider.

Was he a member of any local clubs, I asked.

“No,” quoth he. “They’re only interested in old stuff.”

He was only interested in finding loose change. As long as he kept himself in cider he was a happy bunny.

I left him to it.

I think he’s the first black guy I’ve seen detecting though I know there must be others out there. We do seem to be a very white lot, we detectorists.

Updated my copy of Spink

I bought a copy of Spink’s Coins of England & the United Kingdom back in 2013 which, to be fair, hasn’t had a lot of use since then as I’ve found very few coins worth looking up. However a seller on Amazon was offering the 2016 edition, new, for £10 including p+p, and well, you just have to, eh? It arrived today, with the decimal coin section now published separately but thrown in for nowt. No doubt the 2017 edition is due to be released very soon but the 2016 one will do me for a while.

I ordered from Ancient Art, if anyone fancies a copy:

Pro-Pointer woes

Like many detectorists, I bought a Garrett Pro-Pointer when I bought my first detector. They’re invaluable for finding stuff down holes. Unfortunately Garrett’s gadget has long had a poor reputation for falsing, or suddenly starting to bleep like buggery in the absence of any known metal. I’m told Garrett fixed the problem some time ago but that’s no help to those who bought the older version. Once they start the manic bleeping the only solution is to switch them off and then back on again, rather like computers, and see if that solves the problem.

Sometimes, especially in the early days of them going wrong, this does indeed work, but as the fault develops it stops working and the damned thing has a nervous breakdown as soon as switched on and ends up driving you bonkers – as well as becoming completely unusable.

This very problem has been creeping up on me for a couple of years. It starts almost imperceptibly, with the odd and brief outbreak of random bleeping which convinces you there is something where there isn’t and you spend 5 minutes hunting for a non-existent find. It ends with you ditching the pro-pointer and passing handfuls of soil in front of the detector coil, gradually narrowing down the location of the find. During my two sessions this week it’s been driving me mental, going bezerk as soon as switched on.

Unfortunately it’s out of warranty but I phoned Regton and spoke to Craig in the repairs department. Repairs are possible but not necessarily economically viable in most cases since the most common problems cost £50 to repair but a new unit with full warranty is about £90.

“Check the battery,” quoth Craig. “It might be a duff one. That can cause falsing.”

“By the way, do you use the tip for digging? That can crack the ferrite core and lead to falsing.”

As it happens, I have never used mine for digging though I’ve seen plenty of others doing precisely that. Clearly an expensive mistake.

I agreed to check the battery and if necessary try the pro-pointer with a different one. I took the battery out, inspected it and the terminals in the battery compartment for corrosion. Nowt. Battery good for another 2 years. Put the battery back, screwed the cap on and switched the pro-pointer on.


The minutes passed.

Still silence.

Pointed it at metal just to check it was still working. It was.

More silence.

Well bugger me sideways.

Eventually, after at least 5 minutes, it did give a few bleeps but then shut up again.

After 10 minutes it started bleeping again and had to be switched off and back on again. I can live with that.

By Jove! I think it’s sorted. Not entirely but as much as makes no odds.

I can’t explain it, unless somehow the battery had been slightly dislodged in use and had not been making full contact with the contacts inside, so that taking the battery out and putting it back in again aligned it better with the contacts. One way or another the problem is well under control, if not completely resolved.

I am a happy bunny again.

Zoomorphic Penannular Brooches in 6th and 7th Century Ireland

Abstract: In this thesis the author examines the evolution, manufacture, and societal significance of zoomorphic penannular brooches, a type of metal dress fastener used in early medieval Ireland that is often decorated. The brooches examined are dated to the 6th and 7th centuries, during which the Irish underwent a process of religious conversion from Celtic paganism to Christianity, and social rank was paramount. It is in this social context that the brooches are examined. Despite the significance of this time of social change, brooches from this period tend to be overlooked by scholarship in favor of the more ornate metalwork of the 8th and 9th centuries. The author begins by discussing the origin and evolution of the zoomorphic penannular brooch form, and the motifs used to decorate it. This is followed by an explanation of the brooch in early medieval Irish society, based on an examination of early Irish law and literature.

By Esther Ward, Master’s Thesis, University of Nebraska, 2012

Zoomorphic Penannular Brooches in 6th and 7th Century Ireland

The Port Run

Let’s face it – without the kindness of landowners detectorists would be stuck in their own gardens. Even the beaches are owned by someone and permission  is needed to detect on them. So let’s hear it for landowners, eh?

I went out this morning to deliver bottles of port to the landowners of the two personal permissions on which I’ve been doing my solo detecting this year. As well as the port, I enclosed print-outs for each of the finds from their land which has been recorded with the PAS this year. I also took the opportunity to return Farmer No 2’s Roman grot which the FLO had been unable to identify beyond “probably 2nd century”.

Unfortunately neither farmer was around when I visited. Farmer No 1 was out hedging but I left his carrier bag by the kitchen door under an old tiled cart shed. Farmer No 2 was nowhere to be seen either so I left his carrier by the back wheel of his 4×4 under the car port by the side door. Not wanting to risk leaving the coin out in case someone nicked the carrier bag, I posted it through the letterbox so that it was safe. Once I got home I left a message on Farmer 2’s answerphone telling him where the coin was.

I phoned Farmer No 2 again this evening to check he’d found the coin and retrieved the carrier bag (yes to both) and we had a chat about his land, its history and the surrounding area. He mentioned again the “graveyard” supposed to be on the land according to the testimony of a 90-year-old villager when he himself was a lad of about 10. This would date the testimony, as oral history, to sometime about 1880. The area indicated is where the tenant tends to keep his cattle and is accordingly badly churned up, so I’m not sure when would be best to give it a go. The farmer also mentioned again the claimed connections with a local religious house, though he did not have any details. Clearly in the New Year I am going to have to take another trip to Warwickshire county archives.

Coin case

A while ago I picked up a useful digital caliper from Aldi for precisely measuring artefacts.

Today I picked up an aluminium coin case from Lidl. At £12.99 it’s not a deluxe item and the trays seems to be a little shallower than the photograph suggests, but it’s nice enough and as good a way as any of storing coins.

At least it would be if I’d found anything worth putting in it. My coin finds to date amount to an Irish halfpenny, a few Victorian and 20th pennies, a couple of seriously cruddy Cartwheel pennies and a George V florin. I am yet to find my first silver hammy, let alone a gold coin of any sort. Still, at least I can sit and look at the coin case and imagine what I’d like to put in it.

New Insights from the Metal Detected Brooches of Early Medieval Frisia

Many hundreds of brooches from the early medieval period have been recovered by metal detector enthusiasts since the hobby became popular in the 1970′s. Although much of this material remains in private hands, some of it has become available for study, either through purchase by the state, or by gracious individual loan. Brooches from Frisia were chosen for this study for several reasons. Firstly and quite crucially was the availability of suitable collections for handheld XRF (hhXRF) analysis. Secondly the region has a particularly interesting early medieval past, especially in terms of its relationship to the North Sea economy and the Carolingian hinterlands, the results could therefore be compared against current historical and archaeological theoretical frameworks.

Very little is known about the organisation of metalworking in the region at this time, a large scale compositional and morphological study could contribute to our understanding of trade, production and the subsequent use of these very personal items, subsequently providing a positive contribution to these debates. Typological studies of brooches also date back well into the 19th century and thanks to the dedication of the late Jurjen Bos, the typologies for two of the most numerous and important categories, the Equal-Arm and the Disc brooches were recently brought up to date (see Bos 2006b, 2006c), providing a solid starting point for my research. Finally, if successful, any results that were of merit could form the basis for future comparisons to other regions, further engaging with debate over the early development of Northwest Europe.

This Master’s thesis from the University of Leiden can be read at New Insights from the Metal Detected Brooches of Early Medieval Frisia. It runs to 180 pages.

Hygiene on pasture

Now I am not generally paranoid about hygiene, but it does make me feel queasy to see the absolutely filthy hands that some detectorists, especially the ones with black crescents under their fingernails, use to handle their lunch.

Over the summer I’ve been experimenting with vinyl disposables gloves – not because I wanted to keep my hands warm but because most of my digging is on pasture where the soil is full of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, worms, flukes, mites and other unpleasant things from livestock. E.coli, for example, usually gets into the food chain during the slaughter process where the carcase is contaminated by the gut contents of cattle, but the bacteria is present in the soil of pasture where cattle are grazed.

Using a fresh pair of gloves in the morning, discarding them at lunchtime so I can eat with clean hands, and using another pair in the afternoon has been fairly successful. The downsides have been two:

  • In warm weather your hands can get rather damp and tend to be slightly wrinkly when you take the gloves off, rather as though you’d been in the bath; and
  • The vinyl ones don’t fit snugly so entering information about finds in the field has been frustrating at times.

Most recently I’ve been trying latex disposables as they fit much more closely so cleaning finds and entering finds information into the phone app has been much easier. Both types have been robust in use, though my fingers have pushed through the ends of the vinyl ones once or twice, and both types are waterproof and windproof and can be worn under other gloves.

Obviously the latex gloves aren’t an option for those with an allergy to latex, but the vinyl and other latex substitutes do work well enough, and all can be bought cheaply online in boxes of 100.