- The recovery process starts with the first and most critical part of the formula being realised, and that is; does history or indeed artefacts actually exist in the field/area you are about to search or seek permission?
- The next important factor is to quantify that history does exist there, and then, how many artefacts actually exist in that field and within the range of your machines search coil and capabilities. One of the biggest problems in metal-detecting circles is that detectorists imagine finds such as hammered coinage, Roman coinage, gold coins and other "dream" finds may exist in many of their fields. Unfortunately, and sadly, this isn't the case as most fields only have modern history within them such as pre-decimal coinage, modern coinage and rubbish.
- After points 1 and 2 have been satisfied this, above all, is essential; and that is to ensure that most finds are recovered from a field or area by ensuring that there is 100% coverage of that field or area. There will be very little missed if the disciplined methods are followed which are written in another section.
- The best results are realised when carrying out a structured survey pattern as per the recoveries displayed on our Flickr site. A structured survey also helps with any return visits as your last search pattern is recorded accurately enabling a precise starting point for the next survey. Once this structured pattern is owned, success is only a matter of time.
- Above all, if no evidence is identified by fieldwalking, or signals via metal-detecting, then a decision has to be made whether or not to revisit that particular field/area in the future.
- Field conditions, geology and machine capability may influence results to a very slight degree but the survey will accurately indicate the overall historical content of the land surveyed. It all depends on how much effort/expense you wish to expend on the remaining land you have at your disposal however, no signals will almost certainly indicate a very low chance of anything of historical value existing there.
- Once finds of historical value are recovered the next stage is to clean, photograph and conserve them.
- Once photographed and recorded the cycle is complete.
This is perhaps THE most complex part of the the whole five-part formula and is critical to achieving full potential in achieving the the aims and dreams of all detectorists.
After the recent disappointment that one of our favourite sites has now all but vanished in terms of finds, we re-visited a site that has also seen quite a lot of detecting action.
To recap; two local detectorists (landowners relatives) live next to the field and has also been searched by three other detectorists too.
All five used the standard metal-detecting method which is quite surprising seeing that this field is 80-acres in size!
We arrived in glorious sunshine and having only having 8 hours 1 minute of light available, we were quick off the mark.
The field had been ploughed and drilled with winter wheat.
The first find was a Roman coin, no surprise really as this has been a very busy Roman site producing finds for the five other detectorists and now for us too. It will however sadly diminish as the finite number of finds there will eventually become exhausted, well, all the finds above ten inches that is!
At the moment, we see that this field still warrants the travel expenditure... for now anyway.
We were lucky to recover 23 Roman coins, two complete Roman fibulae with pins, the frame of an annular brooch, at least five fibulae fragments (one with beautiful red and blue enamel), a nail cleaner, a cracking Late Iron Age toggle fastener, a Roman pin, Roman artefacts (to be ID'd), a Roman lead spindle whorl type weight and of course, pottery. One piece of pottery was from a Medieval jug handle dating C12th to C14th.
One of the larger pieces of Roman pottery looks to be from the rim of a large amphora, this was accompanied by two shiny pieces of Samian Ware.
There was also a William III medallion or crude forgery.
An item that did emerge was a fretwork styled mount that has a typeface not seen before......
Five sherds of flint were recovered with two being knapped and still very sharp!
We will be making a second visit soon to finish off this field before moving on to a deep -ploughed field that has just had the potatoes removed.
This may be quite interesting as it has produced lots of Medieval items including a sceat as well as a few Roman articles too.
Equipment used on this survey was:
3 x Déus V4.1
2 x 9" HF Coils
1 x 13" Coil
Programs: GMP 18khz, GMP 15khz, GMP 25khz and the "Hot" program.
All finds were within 5 inches of the field surface with one of the largest, the Roman headstud fibula, actually on the surface!
HD images can be seen here.
A 3D image of both intact brooches can be seen here.
The team visited an old favourite that has produced some fantastic finds that include staters, Viking sword pommels, potins, Saxon coinage, Roman coinage, superb brooches and more.......
Unfortunately, this looks to have come to an end.
All the fields we surveyed had been freshly ploughed and have always produced finds..... until now.
We didn't even pick up fragments of lead, in fact there were no non-ferrous targets located.
We had already suspected back in 2015 that our best sites will cease to amaze us with the finds they have given up.
The results of today's survey was a first for us as we didn't even recover anything worthwhile for the usual photo montage we always present.
We are now certain that the sites we have covered using our tried and well tested formula will bottom out, after all, there are only so many items in any particular piece of ground. This proves beyond doubt that this is the case as we have now seen a dramatic drop in finds rates on the sites we have covered since 2013.
This has also been encountered on a farm that had been detected by other detectorists for over 20 years, the landowner even warned us that that we're wasting our time. I thought this was a polite hint at "don't bother coming" but landowners don't drop hints!
This was repeated at one of our latest permissions very recently, the head ploughman there said that a group had done the field several times, even to the point of camping out on the field. The odd thing was that they claimed not to have found anything after travelling over 80 miles for each trip to the field. Anyway..... telling porkies to a landowner is another subject.
So, this is the first time since 2013 that we didn't recover anything for a report.
We are now in the process of replacing our "top" sites for new permissions.
We know that there are die-hard detectorists that still believe that a field "keeps on givin'...." I'm afraid that once a field is covered 100% after three or four ploughs... the fields are virtually dead.
Fair enough, one cut-quarter may emerge after two or three years but, as we've said many times, it isn't cost-effective to travel several hours to recover a cut-quarter.
If you live next-door to the field, then it would pay to spend a few hours looking for that cut-quarter.
Rather than waste a day not detecting, we decided to have a couple of hours at a local cricket pitch as a compromise. This was due to one of the team having a heavy session the night before.
The pitch itself is placed over a field of ridge and furrow so, before starting, we joked about the "ubiquitous" hammered.
Even before switching on, we found a £2 coin on the surface!
There had been a bonfire there two nights previously so our "job" was to clean up any sparklers lying on the surface.
The groundsman was pleased that we could provide such a service for free.
He didn't know how long the field had been a cricket pitch so perhaps we could pin it down to a rough period?
We used the 9" HF coils for a change governed by the usual standard GMP which has proved itself time and time again.
Sure enough, decimal and pre-decimal coinage started to emerge with 46% of the coinage being the latter, so almost a 50/50 split.
125 coins in total were recovered with some coming from depths of 10 inches.
Some lovely examples of silver coinage were recovered, one being a nice hammered sixpence of Elizabeth I dated 1585 (8 inches deep), the rest were made up of Victorian, George V and George VI. A superb florin of George VI date 1946 came up in the same condition as when it was dropped. The George V shilling and sixpence as well as the George VI sixpence were also in great condition.
As for the "cut-half", would you believe we found the other half too!
Here's a breakdown of what we found:
1 x Elizabeth I Sixpence 1585
1 x George VI Florin 1946
1 x Victorian Shilling 1853
1 x George V Shilling 1936
2 x George V Sixpences 1921 & 1930
1 x George VI Sixpence 1941
1 x Victorian Three-pence (worn)
1 x George V Three-pence 1919
13 x Thrupenny bits
13 x Pennies (Victorian to George VI)
23 x Half-pennies (Victorian to George V)
1 x Two-pound
17 x One-pound
1 x 50p
4 x 20p
2 x 10p
18 x 2p
16 x 1p
8 x Half pennies
There's probably another quarter of the field to do so we may return one afternoon to finish it off.
To view the images of the day please click here.
Well, after a weekend off, we travelled to a site that we'd not been to since April this year. This permission has produced some incredible finds from superb samples of pottery to a nice example of a Iceni gold stater.
This was our twentieth visit to the farm as a whole, the first being 16th March 2014.
The landowner said that there were two fields that had been re-ploughed and seeded with winter barley. This would perhaps be a good test as to how many artefacts and coins remain in plough layer after several methodical searches, the previous ploughing session was for potatoes.
The first field we had a look at is a 40-acre field that has indeed produced some incredible history.
Unfortunately, not as much history was revealed as expected. This can only be down to the intensity of previous surveys as, after all, there is a limit to how much history is actually present there.
We moved to another field that also has had as much attention as the previous one and again had produced some superb finds. Again, not as much history was recovered.
We are now certain that there are TWO main factors that seriously affect all metal-detectorists dreams and desires, either there are NO items present OR the site has been over-saturated by metal-detecting.
Ironically, even our own sites are proving the fact that, once covered 100% over several visits, very little will remain. You then have to accept whether or not it is financially viable to visit that area/field again and perhaps "rest" it for a couple years?
Admittedly it is really sad to have to drop a site that was once an incredible permission and may have been number one your permission list. That's life I suppose and we accept that there are many more exciting sites to explore.
At least there are other fields that may be of interest at this permission, one of which is having potatoes lifted at the moment.
Anyway, at least we did recover some history in the form of 7 Roman coins, a complete fibula, the head of a fibula, a couple of Roman mounts, a couple of ferrous artefacts, a lead pot mend with the Roman grey ware still attached.
HD images of the days recoveries can be seen here.
Today saw the team visit an old favourite in the hope that we could recover some nice finds and explore the mysteries of ground settlement and "direct" drilling affecting the finds rates on our sites.
As you may have read, we recently posted an article showing the vast difference of finds rates between re-ploughed fields and the same fields that had been only been directly drilled.
We will also take a look at "Ground Settlement" and how it may affect finds rates too.
First up was a large field (40-acres) that had just been "worked" and seeded with winter wheat. The area we chose to start was where we had recovered 87 Roman coins in one visit when it was ploughed and drilled with peas. This would certainly test the theory of ground settlement and more targets coming into range as we know that several Roman coins have been recovered in this small area on three occasions after ploughing.
Today we could only muster two small Roman grots that must have been disturbed by the "working" of the surface.
The next part of the field had not been detected since Jan 2016 and produced the remainder of the 48 Roman grots and artefacts including several pieces of Roman pottery. This clearly shows that settlement had not resulted anywhere near the amount of finds recovered earlier this year when newly drilled. In fact, the two coins on this occasion were more likely to have been completely missed due to the crop alignment. This also shows that anything less than 100% coverage will result in missed signals.
This should help anyone doubting their machine and ability as we have already posted.
Anyway, back to the survey, oddly enough, it was stooping down to pick up a piece of Roman course-ware/grit-ware that a lovely Bronze Age flint arrowhead was found lying right next to it. The arrowhead was the largest we'd ever found and was an exciting find indeed.
The ploughman arrived with the gamekeeper and we had a laugh and chat.
He gave us a run-down on what was ploughed and what was directly drilled. There's that worrying phrase again... "directly drilled".... we know from experience that the recovery rate is substantially reduced when compared to a ploughed field.
With 50 Roman coins, one cut-quarter that looks to be quite early, the flint arrowhead that could even be Bronze Age, lots of nice pottery and quite a few artefacts, we had a pleasant day... and the weather was brilliant!
With that, we tried a "directly drilled" field that has produced several Medieval coins and artefacts when ploughed. Sure enough, and without surprise, no signals were encountered at all. We will only return to this field when ploughed.
Our next field was still in wheat stubble and is where we'd discovered a probable Roman villa. Several Roman coins, pottery and fibulae were recovered in a single visit earlier this year.
This is where we would discover if the field had "settled" any since we surveyed it when newly drilled in February.
No signals were encountered as expected and both our theories of "Direct Drilling" and "Land Settlement" after being initially detected (with great results) had been successfully tested today.
The problem we have is that quite a number of our favourite fields have been directly drilled this year.
Unfortunately, these fields do not warrant the travel-time and cost until they have been re-ploughed.
Hopefully we have a couple of back-up plans to fall back on!
HD images of the days recoveries can be seen here.
Today's survey took us back to the new permission that produced the head of Vulcan and the gold stater at the end of last month.
The landowner text me to say that he'd drilled the field after ploughing it.
The field conditions were about as perfect as you could wish for; level and dry with very soft soil that was so easy to dig.
There were lots of ferrous signals, the mineralisation was very high, higher than our normal sites and lots of Roman pottery.
After an hour it became clear that something wasn't quite right but we carried on for another hour just to see if we were in a "quiet" spot.
The third hour saw exactly the same results with only one Roman grot and nothing else of note. This prompted us to call off the search for anything Iron Age or Roman and move on to another permission nearby.
As promised, we called in at the farmhouse to drop off some maps for the landowner for him to mark his fields upon them.
We were met by a chap who happened to be the ploughman and we introduced ourselves. He acknowledged that he'd already seen us detecting earlier.
We gave him our opinion of the field that we'd been detecting by saying that it must have been heavily detected previously.
Our suspicions were confirmed as accurate as he said that there had been several detectorists in that field over ten years, even camping in that particular field!
It doesn't take much to realise that they must have found several items of high value that warranted such intense coverage.
This just shows how fortunate we were to find the gold stater the other week against all odds. Even the camping detectorists have given up coming back due to the lack of finds there after ten years saturation detecting.
Funnily enough, the ploughman said that they'd claimed to have never found anything.... and once gave him a musket ball!
PAS will have missed out on some great records....
We were pleased that our suspicions were accurate but saddened that so much history will have gone unrecorded on the PAS database.
With that we paid a visit to permission number 2.
This one is a totally different beast with the soil extremely hard and claggy when wet.
The first field we surveyed was still in stubble but had been directly drilled. This field was last surveyed in June 2016 with lots of Medieval items being recovered. Sure enough, and as expected, nothing of note was found.
Ploughing this field may reinvigorate it?
The next field was ploughed and drilled with winter wheat and produced Medieval buckles, a jetton, a voided long cross and lots of lead.
We were about to have a look at the field next door when the sprayer arrived! With that, we carried on hoping for more signals.
Nothing else excited the coils so we decided to have a last move to another area of the permission.
Jeeps!! Would you believe it.... we ended up behind the same flipping spraying machine on a tiny country lane! Worse still, it turned into the field we were about to investigate!
Being scuppered, we decided that the odds were stacked against us and we'd call it a day.
Hopefully our next outing will be back on familiar territory upon a field that has just been drilled and produced over 150 Roman coins on 3 previous visits.
For the technically minded; Déus V4.1 with 13" coils and the 9" HF coil operating GMP in standard and a mix of GB set at Manual and Tracking.
Images of both searches can be seen here and here.
Today saw the team visit a brand new permission in Lincolnshire.
The farm has several features such as a Medieval church, a Roman villa, a Bronze Age feature and an Iron Age or Romano-British settlement.
The first survey area was the Roman villa site which looked quite promising from the documentation. The landowner stated that there wasn't much evidence to support the theory of a villa and not much had been found metal-detecting previously. The archaeological papers say otherwise.
We marked out the "villa" perimeter and set out to discover what evidence that may be there.
Some lead items were found, some of them quite large, with 29 fragments of Roman pottery and one piece of Medieval pottery. No Samian Ware was amongst the assemblage which would be odd for a Roman villa site.
Part of a Roman "T" style fibula, a Roman buckle and an extremely rare head of a bronze statuette were recovered. This was a contradiction in terms of villa/settlement status as there is usually Samian Ware on high status sites but finding a bronze statuette on site is puzzling.
Another puzzle was that there wasn't any coinage whatsoever in the area.
We are currently trying to ascertain the identity of the bust which is quite exciting as this is a first bronze figurine for the team.
Initial results and thoughts are Mars and Vulcan.
The next area to come under the spotlight was a 115ft circular feature that looked to be Bronze Age.
Nothing could be seen at ground level so the centre was marked out and an overlapping square was gridded. No metallic signals were encountered.
The third area was a wheat stubble field right up against the church but again, not many metallic items were recovered. The stubble was quite a challenge too.
The draw of the field of which the landowner had mentioned that was full of Roman pottery was too much of a temptation........
The fourth field was roughly ploughed but again, very sandy and soft.
We thought it might be worth using the machines as well as fieldwalking as you never know what might be on top of the furrows.
This is something that we have never done as it is normally rolled and drilled but it just seemed "right" to do.
We set off in three different directions as this was only a recce and we found the field very soft to walk on.
There was quite a lot of pottery, both Medieval and Roman but not many metallic signals due to the field conditions.
After ten minutes there was a call on the two-way radio, "I think I have found my first Celtic gold". With that, Rob and I went over to see what all the fuss was all about. Sure enough, Robin was holding a Corieltauvi gold stater in his hand!
Although not many metallic finds were recovered here, several pieces of Roman and Medieval pottery was found.
The gods were smiling on us, with the head of the bronze god statuette and the gold stater, the day was a very strange mix of emotions indeed, other than that, not much else appeared.
We agree with the landowner regarding his suspicions about the Roman "villa", his thoughts are that the villa wasn't there for that long.
Not much ferrous, not much lead nor any coinage at all point to a very short occupation on this site.
Quite a lot of worked flint was recovered from both the "villa" site and the roughly ploughed field showing that man was here 4,500 years previously.
Three almost perfectly round stones were found, one on the "villa" site and two on the roughly ploughed field.
HD images of the days finds can be seen here.
In 2016, we were approached by an archaeologist who works within the circles of The British Museum.
He asked if it was possible to arrange a meeting with the landowner of one of our sites and gain permission for a full archaeological dig to take place there.
That meeting took place in November 2016 between all parties and the fundamental structure for the dig was designed. The landowner was asked where they could dig, he answered “you’re the experts, you tell me”.
With that, the dig happened and we were so proud and excited to see a full excavation happen on one of our permissions.
The equipment was craned in and the JCB arrived to cut the very first of three trenches that were assigned to cover crop marks identified during the research phase carried out earlier.
Over the week there were several different archaeologists and “volunteer diggers” on-site and each of them were amazed at the amount of finds that we had collected. They asked how long it had taken to accumulate such a large number of finds? …….. 20 months was the answer!
With that, another archaeologist asked if we were married? I replied “no, we just detect together”.
On one of the days a “Family” session was held where all family members from 6 years upwards took part in the actual excavation and also learnt about metal-detection and the huge part it played in the excavation taking place.
The initial Trench Cutting
The JCB cut into the first 12 inches or so which was basically down into the sub-soil and 2 inches below the maximum plough depth of 10 inches.
The excavator driver very kindly spread the spoil heap out across the field surface so that we could fully explore what may have been missed on our previous surveys.
We couldn’t wait to see what may lie in the spoil heaps as this would show up any small coins such as cut-quarters or halves and other items that were obscured due to all the myriad of factors mentioned on all the metal-detecting forums since time dot.
We estimated that the initial spoil heaps consisted of 6.9mtr³ or 6,900 litres or 244 cubic feet of soil dug out by the JCB which represents the maximum detectable layer that is in range/just out of range of machines currently used on arable land.
No metallic finds whatsoever were discovered in the spoil heaps created by the JCB! Perhaps testament to the efficiency of how a carefully structured 100% coverage strategy pays dividends?
The Main Excavation
The archaeologists then started the painstaking process of trowelling back the trench base and it wasn’t long before structures and “features” started to show up.
All three trenches had differing features, some showing up as changes in soil colours and textures, others as solid evidence such as building material.
Trench 3 for instance had a collapsed wall with huge animal bones within it. The dates have yet to be determined but some great C13th to C14th pottery came up from ditch fill soil in the trench.
Trench 3 also had a ditch 5 metres wide and all trenches had other ditches intersecting each other.
The trench walls, base and spoil heaps were constantly checked for any items missed on our previous surveys. Nothing metallic was found, again showing that nothing was missed during our surveys but perhaps more importantly, nothing had “sunk” to a depth which is out or range to all detectors.
On the last day, trench 2 was scanned and two Medieval dress hooks were found, both almost identical.
One came from the ramp leading into the trench and was at a depth of 20 inches (below the plough and sub-soil), the other from a depth of 3 feet! Both items well out of range of today’s machines.
The deeper dress hook appeared to be in the ditch fill context and was deposited into an older existing ditch.
So, from a field that has produced several Medieval finds, even some Roman coins and artefacts, the only metallic finds were two dress hooks! These were beyond detecting range so we were cheating in a way!
There were no cut-quarters, cut-halves or coins such as Henry III pennies, denarii or buckles etc so obviously nothing was going to “magic” its way to within coil range as it doesn’t exist.
The fact is that 55 to 60 tonnes of carefully excavated soil didn’t produce any metallic finds.
We all know that finds in a field are finite and there will be a point were once it was justifiable to travel several miles/hours to a field, but the time will come that the field will have to be laid to rest.
Unless of course you live next door to it, then it’s always worth the time-out to have a walk around and let the magic of imagination run away with you.
As we’ve said many times, we wouldn’t travel the distances we cover just for one cut-quarter.
In addition, we had an experienced overseas visitor who had a Minelab CTX 3030 but couldn’t find anything either!
We have found that if a field isn’t covered 100% (as per our previous posts) targets will be missed.
Indeed, and we are just as guilty as others in not covering an area 100% as we’ve surveyed areas that it was nigh on impossible to keep an accurate track on where you are up to, due to crop alignment, or mis-alignment to be more accurate.
This may equate to a maximum 90% coverage ratio meaning that:
1,619 mtr² of the 4-acre field …..or 0.4-acres had been totally missed.
1,619 mtr² is a huge area so it’s easy to see why an unstructured search pattern will result in missed items. This is why a field that hasn’t been covered 100% “will always keep giving”, …….well up to a certain point anyway.
As we’ve seen in several other posts, some detectorists may have doubts about their abilities and their machines’ capabilities but hopefully this example may show that, on the whole, no signals equal no targets, as simple as that.
As can be seen, in the 30 cubic metres of soil removed or 30,000 litres or 1,060 cubic feet of soil (approx. 55 to 60 tonnes) that were meticulously scanned, nothing was found.
So, there were no items at all squirreled away in there somewhere that may “magically materialise” on another future visit as they didn’t exist in the first place.
Items recovered on subsequent visits to a field that has already searched have simply been missed or the target was out of range of the machines capability.
The lesson here is don’t get stressed out if you’re not finding anything, move on until you do find something! Ignore all the myths/urban legends and trust your machine, after all, it doesn’t have an imagination, it just follows fact.
There are two facts that help in successful detecting and increased confidence:
Whether or not a cut-quarter is on its edge or any of the myriad of excuses as to why an object isn’t recovered only adds another layer of “myth” or uncertainty that will always exist, and add fuel to the “what if” phycology.
If you survey a field 100% and it produces one Henry III penny, it’s all down to the individual as to how much effort and expense you want to spend finding any further artefacts or coinage within that field?
Sifting through 55 to 60 tons of soil, carefully excavated from a superb Medieval site proved it for me.
Images of the excavation can be seen here.
This is perhaps THE most complex part of the the whole five-part formula and is critical to achieving full potential in achieving the the aims and dreams of all detectorists.