Ardent American detectorists – or should I say ‘relic hunters’ or even ‘coinshooters’ – used to swinging in tot-lots and searching on sidewalks – have a dream. And that is to visit England to do some real detecting. Canadians and Americans are lured – and here I am quoting one of the organisations organising the tours – by phrases like …
“With your metal detector you will have opportunities to discover gold, silver, lead, or bronze antiquities thought lost forever. Touch history by finding clues in the fields . . . or discover the whereabouts of an unknown Roman villa.
Detecting expeditions search private land, in archaeologically interesting places, to uncover many spectacular finds including ancient coins and artefacts, dating from the Bronze Age through to Celtic, Roman, Medieval and. the present day.“
And so on. After reading some of the claims, I wish that I were American or Canadian and eligible to go on one of these trips. Good finds are almost guaranteed. Alas, I could never afford it …
A Unexpected Find
Blog subscriber Paul Mower was the catalyst for this article. I saw a humorous post of his involving some American guests to the UK and thought that it deserved a wider audience. Paul gives the background:
“The rally was advertised as being close to a large Roman mansio with a bath dedicated to Minerva. That wasn’t quite true as I had spent a summer as a student on the site of the mansio working alongside several well known archaeologists. In fact the site was nearly a mile away!
The dig was in fact situated in a field that had been the venue of a Sunday market. As I was driving past I could see an army of detectorists like ants scurrying all over the place. I stopped the car, parked up and wandered onto the site just to observe and experience a rally.
The searchers must have thought I was the rally finds officer as several approached me to identify artefacts they had found. I duly obliged. About a hundred metres away I could see a large crowd circling a deep crater in which two Americans were waist deep. As they dug deeper the crowd grew larger.
Mutterings of a fantastic hoard began circulating. A six foot deep and ever-widening hole excavated by the four Americans finally struck metal. Slowly and bit by bit the find began to appear. The crowds anticipation could be felt; it was electric as the excitement grew! Finally the whole thing was revealed!”
Drum roll! The artefact was … wait for it … a rear wheel from a Massey Ferguson tractor! Did I laugh, I just couldn’t stop!! Talk about a candid camera moment!