If You Just Don’t Have That Feeling About A Site….Don’t Give Up!

Coins in HandAs metal detectorists, we all sometimes have that special feeling about a specific area of a field or a whole site. Many referred to it as ‘the X Factor’ long before that cheesy talent show arrived on our screens. To give you an example of this, five years ago I was trawling Google Earth and using the time shift clock icon on a large estate that I have permission to search on. For those who don’t know, the time shift icon is a little yellow clock at the top of the page; click on this and Google Earth will show you a slide bar – if previous photos of your site have been taken then you can use the slide bar to go back in time and have a look. It is particularly useful for viewing different sites from the perspective of different positions of the sun and also with a range of different crops.

When I was using this function five years ago, recent photographs of my site showed nothing to trigger any interest but a photo taken nine years ago with a different crop showed an entirely different story. When I lowered the altitude on Google Earth a series of very defined crop marks appeared, as well as ditches pits, and a whole host of markings all around a central square enclosure. That enclosure looked most interesting and first impressions were of a large Celtic site or maybe Roman.

After harvest, I made my way to the site as soon as it was harrowed. Strangely, there was not much evidence of anything apart from a large cobblestone and a section of Roman floor tile. Later I detected it and several hours gave me a nice Ant of Carausius. Well, as this proved, the old Romans were there but they didn’t seem to have left much behind. Later searches revealed modern finds and a large amount of obviously Roman lead dross. I considered that this was a rather poor show, the site was huge and had taken a lot of effort to create so where were the metallic losses?

Years went by and I still made the odd visit to the site but these times revealed absolutely no Roman artifacts or coins at all. This year I – rather hopefully – repeated a search there and once again found…nothing. Several months later I decided to have a re-check after the soil was soaked by winter rains. The site was still harrowed so was very detectable. There was also the added advantage that much of the uprooted stubble had blown away. The first signal came clear and sharp, ‘Eley or lead Jules,’ I thought but no it was a Follis issue coin of Constantine, quickly followed by another and another in presentable condition. I got to the area where the square enclosure was and noted pottery and cobbles everywhere, as well as sections of roof and floor tile. I had never seen this at the site before and the field hadn’t been deep ploughed either.

I mentioned this to several colleagues who weren’t that impressed and didn’t want to return to the site despite my new finds. However I was determined and returned myself recently. This latest search revealed 15 Roman coins, some of which were in much better condition than is usual for this area. As well as the coins, another signal revealed a fragment of a huge, but much corroded, fibula brooch. Overall, the finds amounted to not that much compared to some other sites, yes I accept that. However a Saxon holed As of Vespasian followed, which was a tantalising glimpse of the site’s potential.

It seems that perhaps the site has been holding back and is only prepared to release finds if you work hard for them. For some reason I just feel there is a really special find to be made there and my instincts tell me that somewhere in that windswept rural field there lies a hoard for me. If you ever have that special feeling, well it must come from somewhere, whether it’s the elusive X Factor or an unknown spiritual force from the past. One thing I know is that I’m glad I never gave up on that field and I will be returning there….because I’d just so love to find a hoard. And I know that moment is coming: a feint signal that gets louder as you dig, then a few shards of grey ware, before a shower of Siliquae falls from the side of the hole and that moment of excitement when you realise you’ve cracked it.

One thing that I don’t have to dream about or imagine is the marvellous and dedicated support that Joan Allen continues to provide to the hobby of metal detecting. It is absolutely second to none, from both my own personal experience and also that of many, many other detectorists I know. Customer service and product back up is provided by a team of pleasant and happy staff, of whom I’m very proud to now count as friends….so thank you to them all.


About Julian Evan-Hart
Julian is from Hertfordshire, England and has always been interested in fossils and antiquities. Julian has written a number of books on metal detecting, and is an avid user of Minelab products.

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