What follows is a couple of memories from my detecting past. The pictures above are from passports I have used. Apart from looking back they bear little relation to this post. The picture on FaceAche was a teaser.


Nostalgia – is missing the past good or bad for you?

I often think about my past or wish I you could go back in time, at least to the world we all once had before the coronavirus pandemic. Nostalgia has direct implications on our mental health.

Regular readers of my blog realise that I write mainly about nostalgia. I can only liken it to a feeling of being homesick and a yearning for the return to a past period and lost condition.

For centuries, nostalgia was regarded as a mental condition, but scientists now say that it serves as a positive function, improving mood and possibly your mental health. It’s good to change your mind.

But nostalgia isn’t real, is it? Every time we recall an experience, the memory becomes a little distorted. As time passes, the memory becomes further out of touch with reality and so it is hardly accurate or reliable. When people speak fondly of the past, they also tend to become more hopeful for the future. So nostalgia can in fact be a healing and a bonding experience.

On occasions I have written for Best of British, The UK’s premier nostalgia magazine covering every aspect of life from the 1930s to today. Each issue encourages you to explore your own recollections and memories in their ‘Yesterday Remembered’ section.

During my bouts of ill health and in the darkest moments I have thought of myself as a total failure but, with the help of many people, I now think positively. When reflecting back on those special moments, I’m finding value and a meaning to life. But I have long way to go: I enjoy remembering and writing about the past. ‘School of Hard Pitches’ is an amalgamation of detecting knowledge and memories of my past was one of the catalysts for this post.

I have loads of old snaps and will show pictures that are perhaps new to you from my short detecting past. I’ll leave the other 60 years of my life for another time. :-). Now, where do I start? One of the highlights of my time scribbling about detecting was the discovery of a mosaic by Mike Pittard and Anne Laverty.

Meet Mike, Anne and a Marvellous Mosaic

Mike Pittard and Anne Laverty
Roman Mosaic found Spring 2008
The Importance of teamwork. Mike Piccard, Mrs John and archaeologist Alan Graham

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Basil Brown and “The Dig”

Belt Buckle, Sutton Hoo, early 7th century, gold, 13.2 x 5.6 cm © Trustees of the British Museum.

This gold belt buckle is one of the greatest achievements of Anglo-Saxon metalwork. Constructed from several separate pieces, its body forms a hinged box with an ingenious triple-lock mechanism. The intricate decoration comprises a web of 13 snakes, predatory birds and long-limbed beasts.

Basil Brown – the Invisible Archaeologist

Before we start – excuses

In 2007 Mrs John and I visited Sutton Hoo and viewed the huge ship grave and the National Trust exhibition of priceless royal treasures with a sense of awe and wonder. AWESOME! It is over eighty years ago since this seventh-century Anglo-Saxon burial ground and royal grave was unearthed in a Suffolk field, and it still has an inescapable fascination. In the same year I purchased Preston’s book and have read it many times. I also penned a review at the time and this blog revisits that time in my life.

My review centred on Basil Brown, the hero of the story. The appellation ‘Invisible Archaeologist’ is only one of many. He was also referred to as the ‘Local Excavator’, the ‘Suffolk Heritage Explorer’ and many more. The way he was treated by the ‘proper’ archaeologists will resonate with detectorists everywhere. He probably knew more than they did!

This has been one of the most difficult blogs I have ever done. Doing research and then losing it all; intense pain after a fall; depression, and a sense of worthlessness were just some of the ingredients in the mix. My intention was to post on the same day as the Netflix film was released. It was not to be.

Streaming on Netflix from 29th January – a film of the book.
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Detectorist Suckers

Size matters. Mine is bigger than yours.

More Money Than Sense

in 2011 I compiled a short blog post that received a lot of attention and deserves a reprise. In those days my original blog had nearly 2000 subscribers and comments left on posts usually reached the giddy 30’s. Not so today: I’m fortunate to get 4 of 5. This is how it started:

I believe that for many detectorists the act of buying a new machine far outweighs the thrill of actually participating in the hobby.

John Winter November 2011

And continued … that’s the impression I get from looking at the various detecting forums, (not so many about now), talking to people in the field and keeping my eyes and ears open. If you regularly visit online hobby (sport?) sites then you’ll be very familiar with the threads extolling the virtues of one make of detector over another. They usually run for several pages, becoming increasingly vitriolic and personal before an enlightened and increasingly frustrated moderator pulls the plug. Has it changed?

The machines being discussed (I use that word lightly) are rarely the reasonably priced models, but high-end machines costing well over a thousand pounds – and more!

For the guys with all the latest gear (but little idea?) it’s as though when they do venture into a muddy field they have to hold their head up high by sporting the latest and the most expensive equipment; when we all know that all you need to find treasure is enthusiasm, a reasonably priced proven detector and a spade.

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Skullduggery, Freemasonry and a Danake

A strange and unusual item this time – and I don’t mean the skull but its amalgamation with the coin shown below. For the purpose of this blog, the skull is a representation, a look-a-like. The coin is genuine.

Eight years ago I was contacted by a FLO who related an intriguing story about a coin that had been handed in for recording and identification.

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Roman Cosmetic Sets

The Romans used all sorts of beauty tools – combs and hairpins made of bone, heated curling tongs, tweezers for plucking out stray hairs, and tiny spoons to scoop wax from the ears. So what did the STRIGIL do?

A news report recently caught my attention. A number of items found and catalogued in the early 20th century have been reappraised. Metal detectorists have found similar artefacts–and many like them.

Stated simply, archaeology is the study of the past by looking for the remains and objects left by the people who lived long ago. These remains can include coins, tools, buildings, and inscriptions. Archaeologists use these remains to understand how people lived. But sometimes they get it wrong.

‘Pendants’ turn out to be Roman cosmetic artefacts

Roman ‘pendants’ excavated in the early 20th century have been revealed to be ancient cosmetic sets used for eye make-up.

The ‘cosmetic grinders’ will go on display at Wroxeter for the first time, the heritage charity said. The small pestle and mortar sets, which were developed in the first century AD, had loops to allow them to be carried on a cord which previously led people to think they were pendants.

Experts also said sets were exclusive to Britain, though they were a response to the import of cosmetics and personal beauty ideas coming from the Mediterranean and Roman provinces as far away as Egypt. They show how thriving, prosperous and metropolitan Wroxeter Roman City was 2,000 years ago, English Heritage said.

Cameron Moffett, English Heritage curator, said: “Being able to re-identify these pendants as cosmetic sets is hugely important to our understanding of the women who lived and worked at Wroxeter Roman City – these small objects literally changed the face of Britain.

“When we think of the Roman period, conversation is often dominated by the masculine realms of influence, from Emperors and politics to battle tactics, but of course women played a key role.

“It’s these functional, everyday items that really paint a picture of relatable women, to whom make-up was wholly accessible, following the trends of the time and using tools so similar to the ones we use today.” Yorkshire Post

Lunate Pendant

Seems incredible that these artefacts were originally considered pretty 2,000-year-old objects–lunate pendants’– with no use other than for decoration. English Heritage revealed that they had a fascinating purpose: as makeup applicators that the more well-heeled woman in Roman Britain would have used to put on eye makeup. The fashion was for heavy and dark, often using soot or charcoal. I particularly liked the quote from the EH curator, Cameron Moffat, who said that these small objects “literally changed the face of Britain.” Great pun and so apt!

The Romans used all sorts of beauty tools – combs and hairpins made of bone, heated curling tongs, tweezers for plucking out stray hairs, and tiny spoons to scoop wax from ears. Fashionable men wore perfume and make-up. Like today? They even had stick-on leather patches to hide any spots or scars. And why did Roman women look pale? Take my word, they did! I learnt that fact at school many years ago. Pale skin was a sure sign that a woman came from a rich, noble family. Poorer women had to work outside. Their faces burnt in the hot summer sun, and became rough and red in the cold winter winds.

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