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Digging for Napoleon-era treasure, Australian filmmakers found this Chinese Ming Period Buddha

Is the discovery of a bronze Buddha statue possibly dating back to the Ming dynasty in the sands of northwestern Australia evidence the Chinese visited and settled here 600 years ago?

Or is the small, very heavy object, which one expert has dated back to the early 1400s, a mere hoax?

Two filmmakers and adventurers have claimed they found the statue on a remote beach in Western Australia’s Gascoyne region.

Leon Deschamps, a second generation historian and photographer from Shark Bay in the Gascoyne, captured the statue’s unearthing with his Finn Films co-director and partner, Shayne Thomson.

The men discovered the statue using metal detectors during filming for a documentary about the early 1800s French exploration of Australia.

Deschamps and Thomson were looking for objects left behind during a Napoleonic-era voyage when they came across the Buddha, which weights 1kg despite its small size.

They have now described the find as possible “evidence the 1421 Chinese Ming Dynasty ‘Treasure Fleets’ exploration of Australia up to two centuries before Europeans”.

More here.

 
 
A ‘licking dog’ statue. Part of an extraordinary Roman hoard found this year in Gloucestershire, England. It is thought that the statue might have been used in healing
Image credit Bristol City Council
 
Current Archaeology reports that –
 
A Roman hoard dating to c.AD 318-450 and holding several hundred bronze objects has been found in Gloucestershire. Discovered by metal-detectorists in September, its contents included pieces of a large bronze statue, jewellery fragments, and a coin of ‘Crispus globe on altar’ type, dated to AD 321-324 and minted in Trier, Germany. It is thought that many of the objects in the hoard were deliberately broken before they were placed in the ground – perhaps by a local metalworker who was intending to melt and recast them later.
 
Full article here.
 
 
Mackenzie Crook (right) and Toby Jones (left) in their roles as Andy and Lance in the Detectorists
Image credit Chris Harris
 
Ben Dowell writes in the RadioTimes that –
 
Detectorists is a gem of a series, a buddy tale of two men who are as far from being ‘lads’ as it is possible to imagine, all set in beautiful English countryside where the sun always seems to shine – or at least peak through the clouds.
 
Their constant search for treasure below ground has always carried symbolic weight: searching for a purpose in life and, perhaps above all, for love.
 
So what happens now, when Mackenzie Crook’s metal detecting enthusiast Andy has left with his young family to follow his dreams in Botswana, and Toby Jones’s character Lance has unearthed actual treasure?
 
Detectorists series three starts on Wednesday, 8 November at 10pm on BBC4. More here
 

Alan Graham excavating the Frome Hoard

Sam Moorhead, Finds Adviser, Portable Antiquities Scheme, British Museum writes on the British Museum bog here

When working with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), the concept of a ‘forward job plan’ is somewhat laughable – your work patterns are largely dictated by finds made by detectorists. Some discoveries can completely change your career as the Frome Hoard did for me when it was found by Dave Crisp in April 2010.

Dave had dug down a foot into the ground when he started to pull out pottery and coins from the clay soil. When he realised that he had found a coin hoard, he made one of the most important decisions of his life – he filled the hole in, walked away, and contacted his local PAS Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire, Katie Hinds. Katie contacted her opposite number in Somerset, Anna Booth, and a professional excavation of the site took place under the direction of local archaeologist Alan Graham.

 
 
A selection of Roman coins discovered by metal detectorists in Worcestershire in 2011
 
Sebastian Richards, writing for the Cotswold Journal, reports that the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery is exhibiting the Bredon Hoard of Roman coins until the end of May –
 
Two metal detectorists discovered the hoard, the largest ever found in Worcestershire [West Midlands of England], in June 2011. The hoard dates back to the 3rd Century and features 16 different Roman Emperors. Following the discovery, the county archaeology service took over the excavation and it became evident that not only had a hoard been found but also a settlement site with a long and intriguing history.
 
More here.
 

A rare Anglo-Saxon penny bearing the name Jænberht.  Jænberht was Archbishop of Canterbury in the late 8th century. The penny is only the second of its kind known to be in existence
Source Ferrari Press Agency. Image credit Dix Noonan Webb
 
The penny was found by a metal detectorist in a field in Faversham (southern England) last September. Mr Carlile, who found the penny, is reported as saying that at first he thought it was just a button. “It wasn’t until I took it back to the finds tent that I realised it was a coin and it was found to be Anglo-Saxon.”
 
The full importance of the coin did not become apparent until it was examined by experts at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
 
More here.
 
 
 
A bird-shaped gold pin from the Galloway Viking Hoard
 
The heraldscotland reports that –
 
A campaign has been launched to ensure a 1,000-year-old Viking hoard found buried in a Dumfries and Galloway field stays in the local area. The objects were found inside a pot unearthed in 2014 and include rare items such as a gold bird-shaped pin, an enamelled Christian cross and silk from modern-day Istanbul as well as silver and crystal. The items date from the ninth and 10th centuries and are part of a wider hoard of about 100 pieces, which experts say is the most important Viking discovery in Scotland for more than a century.
 
The Hoard was discovered at an undisclosed location in the region by a metal detectorist. More here.
   

A selection of Anglo-Saxon coins showing the different types found within the Watlington Hoard
©
Trustees of the British Museum

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, has succeeded in raising the £1.35 million needed to purchase the Watlington Hoard. More than 700 members of the public contributed to the appeal to find the locally discovered treasure a permanent home and save it from entering a private collection. James Mather, a metal detectorist, made the discovery of 200 complete silver coins, seven items of jewellery and 15 silver ingots in a field near Watlington in Oxfordshire in October 2015.

Oxford Thinking reports that financial aid to purchase the find for the Nation was –

…provided by the National Lottery through a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £1.05 million. The grant will be used towards the acquisition of the hoard, as well as conservation, display, touring and educational programmes. Thanks to a further £150,000 from the Art Fund, and contributions from private individuals and the Friends and Patrons of the Ashmolean, the museum reached its fundraising target within days of the deadline.

Dating from the end of the 870s, the Watlington Hoard contains over 200 Anglo-Saxon coins, including many examples of previously rare coins of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex (871-899) and his less well-known contemporary, King Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-899). These coins provide new evidence of the relationship between the two kings, and can potentially shed light on how the once-great kingdom of Mercia came to be absorbed into the emerging kingdom of England by Alfred and his successors.

Once formally acquired, the museum will launch an events and education programme for the hoard. This will begin on 11 February when the treasures will be put on display at the Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock.

More here.

 

 
 
One of the Roman coins discovered by metal detectorist Stephen Squire. The coin dates from around 37ce
 
Kerry Ashdown, writing in the Staffordshire Newsletter, reports on the discovery of more than 2,000 Roman artefacts in a field in Barlaston, Staffordshire, England –
 
MORE THAN 2,000 Roman artefacts including coins have been declared treasure after being unearthed in Barlaston. Metal detectorist Stephen Squire made the discovery in a field in his home village. His find included rare coins and the British Museum has expressed interest in acquiring three items. The Potteries Museum in Hanley plans to exhibit other items. Mr Squire, aged 49, told a hearing at North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court: “I was on my own that morning but quickly phoned my wife and son to come down when I found the objects.”
 
Councillor Terry Follows, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “This is a significant find because of the number of coins involved. They were found in broken pottery vessels just one metre below ground. It is a real credit to the finder for treating the discovery so responsibly and reporting it correctly.
 
Full story  here.

University of East Anglia student, and metal detectorist, Tom Lucking. Image credit Antony Kelly

Emma Knights, Arts Correspondent for the Eastern Daily Press in Norwich, England, reports on the discovery of Anglo-Saxon artefacts in Norfolk.

A collection of artefacts discovered in an Anglo-Saxon grave in Norfolk has been declared as Treasure, an inquest has heard. University of East Anglia student Tom Lucking and his friend Stuart Isaacs made the discovery between December 21 2014 and January 7 2015. The inquest in Norwich yesterday heard that the historical items were found near Diss and that a report from the British Museum described them as “an assemblage of artefacts most probably deriving from an early Anglo-Saxon female furnished burial.” Among the items are a Merovingian coin pendant, two gold biconical spacer beads, a gold openwork pendant with the form of a Maltese cross, a coin pendant with a gold suspension loop, another pendant with a Maltese cross design, a continental pottery biconical bowl, an iron knife and a collection of copper alloy chatelaine rings.

Tom has been a metal detector enthusiast for more than a decade and is reported as saying that the artefacts should end up at Norwich Castle, being the best place for them because it keeps them in the County for people to see.

Full story and images of two of the artefacts here.

 

 
A 3,000 year-old gold torc recently found by a metal detectorist in a Cambridgeshire field
Image credit Dominic Lipinski/PA
 
The torc is so big that one expert thinks it may have been worn to protect a pregnant woman. It is made from 730 grams of almost pure gold and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century. The workmanship is astonishing. “The torc was shaped from a square section bar of gold, and then twisted and burnished. “If you take callipers, and measure the gaps between the twists, they are absolutely spot on accurate.”
 
More by Maev Kennedy in The Guardian here.
 

Section of the rampart of Cissbury Ring Iron Age hill fort, near Worthing, West Sussex, England
Image credit Simon Burchell. Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Source Wikimedia Commons

The Telegraph reports yesterday that the Iron Age fort, know as Cissbury Ring, and located in West Sussex, southern England, has been damaged – probably by illegal metal detecting.

An ancient hill fort dubbed “one of the jewels in the crown” of the South Downs National Park has been damaged, police have said. Illegal metal detecting is believed to be behind the disturbance to the ground at the 5,000-year-old Cissbury Ring site near Worthing in West Sussex.

Described by the National Trust as the most historic hill on the South Downs, its ditch and ramparts enclose some 65 acres and it is a habitat for butterflies, flowers and rare plants.

The damage caused at the largest hill fort in Sussex, which police have said is “irreversible”, has provoked outrage in the metal detecting community.

Full article here.

 

Can Detectorists be Archaeologists? News by Roy Goutté of an upcoming conference.

The author ‘sweeping’ the line of a long lost track-way
Image credit and © Roy Goutté

 

On the 21st November 2016, PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) are staging a conference at the Museum of London. It is headed ‘Can Detectorists Be Archaeologists?’ and features many speakers during the day.

Nowadays most archaeologists recognise that responsible metal-detecting has a role to play in archaeology, though there remain concerns about the (seemingly) haphazard searching techniques employed by most finders. This conference explores the various ways in which detectorists (working alone or with archaeologists) have undertaken archaeological fieldwork, and looks to a future of further cooperation for the benefit of archaeology and public interest in the past… Dr Michael Lewis (British Museum).

As a detectorists myself and an amateur archaeologist that has worked with qualified archaeologists where my detector was called upon, this promises to be a very interesting series of talks. Any form of education, as long as it is a balanced appraisal of the subject, is most welcome as irresponsible detecting without giving thought to the archaeology is without doubt a serious matter and hopefully will be discussed at length.

There are two types of detectorists apart from the many thousands out there that, in my opinion, are irresponsible in respect of their lack of concern for our heritage and unseen archaeology. One is the blatant ‘night-hawk’ who purposely sets out to steal artefacts from areas of known ‘hot-spots’ and the other is the genuine beginner/casual user of a detector who seem totally unaware that they could be damaging the archaeology as they have not followed the Metal Detector Code because, on the whole, they are not recognised metal detector club members. As a member they would have been well versed in the rights and wrongs of metal detecting.

This doesn’t make the latter a bad bunch – just an uninformed one that are venturing out for a day’s enjoyable and relaxing detecting with thoughts of finding the odd coin/ring/watch on a beach or local scrub land. They are by far the majority – the ones that have a day out occasionally and not the day in day out detectorists.

To return to the subject matter – Can Detectorists Be Archaeologist? – well of course they can, just as well as anyone else if they are interested in the subject… which undoubtedly some will be of course. If they used their obvious knowledge of our heritage for the good and not just for personal gain as a night-hawk would, then fine. But let’s be quite clear on this – the major hoards and finds in the UK are being made by your bog standard detectorists who report their finds and not night-hawks who don’t and in places not generally being looked at by archaeologists because that is not in their remit.

Another heritage website doesn’t seem to allow for this and offers no credit to the ‘good guys’ seeing the majority of all detectorists as stealing our heritage and the vast number of them not declaring their finds. So where do they think all the hoards and other antiquities found came from if not reported – out of fresh air! The dark or negative side is always highlighted by them and virtually no credit given to the huge amount of detectorists out there doing the right thing! They need to wise-up and smell the roses!

However, not wishing to linger on this negative side, I believe this conference is perfectly timed by PAS and should open up a few eyes and minds with the range of the talks they are encompassing at the event and the quality of the speakers enlisted for it. I hope it is well attended and appreciated by a level-headed audience and hopefully gives the naysayers something that will pacify them a little – but don’t hold your breath!

Here are some more details and the table and time of events:

Can Detectorists Be Archaeologists?

Portable Antiquities Scheme Conference – Weston Theatre, Museum of London. Monday 21st November 2016. 10am – 5pm.

10:00 Roy Stephenson (Museum of London): Welcome
10:10 Dr Michael Lewis (British Museum) & Dr Pieterjan Deckers (Vrije Universiteit Brussel): Working Together.
10:30 Dr Felicity Winkley (University College London): A Font of Local Knowledge: Metal-detectorists and landscape archaeology.
11:00 Dr Phil Harding (metal-detectorist and self-recorder): Metal-detecting in Leicestershire: Insights from detailed recording.
11:30 David Haldenby (metal-detectorist from Yorkshire): Detecting the Landscape.
12:00 Lindsey Bedford (erstwhile metal-detectorist): Detecting a Path into Archaeology.
12:30 Lunch (not provided).
14:00 Faye Minter (Suffolk County Council): The Use of Systematic Metal detecting in Suffolk as an Archaeological Survey Technique.
14:30 Carl Chapness (Oxford Archaeology): Metal-detecting and Archaeology.
15:00 Samantha Rowe (University of Huddersfield) Archaeology of the plough-zone.
15:30 John Maloney (National Council for Metal Detecting) The Future of archaeology and metal-detecting.
16:00 Dr Mike Heyworth (Council for British Archaeology) The Future of archaeology and metal-detecting: Building or burning bridges?
16:30 Finish.

Worth noting that there will be no refreshments provided. If, like many others, you are contemplating taking up this wonderful hobby, the following link to a very informative Beginners Guide to metal detecting is a real must. Check it out!

 

 
Fragment of a Bronze Age copper/alloy knife recovered from a previously undiscovered burial site near Morecambe Bay
Image credit Stuart Noon
 
Dalya Alberge, writing in The Guardian yesterday, reports that –
 
A significant early bronze age burial site, believed to date from 2500BC, has been discovered near Morecambe Bay. Grave goods could include objects ranging from daggers and ceramic vessels to jewellery, textiles and material such as amber, jet and gold. The site will be excavated in July. Archaeologists were alerted to its existence by Matthew Hepworth, a nurse, who unearthed a well-preserved bronze age chisel using a metal detector.
 
Ben Roberts, a lecturer in later prehistory at Durham University and the British Museum’s former curator for European bronze age collections, said: “The potential is huge because untouched, undiscovered sites are very rare indeed. What’s really special about our site is that no one knew about it before … The barrow appears to be intact and it’s pretty substantial.”
 
Hepworth followed the correct procedure on discovery of the chisel, notifying the authorities under the portable antiquities scheme. He is now being given a rare opportunity to work alongside the professional archaeologists in an excavation that is being partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Morecambe Bay excavation is being partly financed through a crowdfunding project, DigVentures, a social enterprise founded by three archaeologists – including Wilkins – to address the severe cuts in local authority and university-funded research archaeology.
 

The Anglo-Saxon site (not shown) in Lincolnshire is thought to have been a monastic or trading centre
Image credit and © Jon Boyes/incamerastock/Corbis

Haroon Siddique reports in The Guardian that –

The remains of an Anglo-Saxon island have been uncovered in Lincolnshire in a significant find that has yielded an unusually wide array of artefacts.

The island, once home to a Middle Saxon settlement, was found at Little Carlton near Louth, Lincolnshire, by archaeologists from the University of Sheffield after a discovery by a metal detectorist. Graham Vickers came across a silver stylus, an ornate writing tool dating back to the 8th century, in a disturbed plough field. He reported his find and subsequently unearthed hundreds more artefacts, recording their placement with GPS, thus enabling archaeologists to build up a picture of the settlement below.

A huge number of sceattas (Anglo-Saxon coins dating from the 7th and 8th centuries) have been unearthed
 

Dr Hugh Willmott, from the university’s department of archaeology, said: “It’s clearly a very high-status Saxon site. It’s one of the most important sites of its kind in that part of the world. The quantity of finds that have come from the site is very unusual – it’s clearly not your everyday find.”

Willmott praised Vickers for reporting his find to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, describing it as a “really nice collaboration between the general public and the university”.

More here and here.

 

 

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