Using and interpreting Google Earth

Metal Detecting FindLike many metal detectorists I use Google Earth to have a look at the land that I search and to scope out potential new sites. The Time Shift icon on Google Earth allows you to essentially go back in time, sometimes as far as 1945, which is fascinating research. This icon is particularly useful with crop marks, as some show up better under certain light conditions, with specific crops and when there are certain moisture levels in the soil. On one of the estates I searched, for example, I noticed a field that clearly had strip lynchets on it. These medieval plough lines normally show up as lighter and darker soil stripes across an arable field – on pasture they are best observed as the sun sets and shadow falls across the lines.

Strip lynchets, apart from being an obvious sign of human activity – and hopefully metallic finds – can also be used in some cases to find new sites. I’ve only managed this once but feel it’s worth sharing, as there is great potential for others to make finds. Which is what it’s all about. The field I used had noticeable strip lynchets running across it. However, in one quarter they suddenly stopped. Using the Time Shift icon I examined this “lynchetless” area wondering why they stopped just there. I was delighted to see a complex of other crop marks in the square area – lines ditches, squares and other markings. The question was whether this could be a settlement area comparable to the same era in which the strip lynchets were made. That would certainly make sense. However, also on my mind was the fact that maybe the strip lynchets were connected to a settlement that had been there much earlier. Maybe there was too much building debris for the medieval ploughshares to cope with. Or perhaps the settlement was surrounded by some, still evident, boundary ditches that made ploughing difficult to negotiate. Metal Detecting Find

The first thing I did when I got there in person was field walk the area – leaving the detector over by the hedge. Field walking allowed me to take the time to look at the area in more detail. In a large area there was a noticeable concentration of cobblestones, tile and various pottery shards. When I got the CTX3030 from its bag and started searching the first thing to appear from the black soil was a corroded Roman coin. Then up came a Celtic Bronze stater, more Roman coins and bits of bronze, including a piece from a Bronze Age axe head. It would seem that this area had been a magnet for humans for several millennia – just the sort of site I like. After yet more Roman coins appeared I suddenly got a good strong signal and moments later was holding the best Roman Rosette Thistle brooch I’ve ever found.

Whether signs of this predominantly Roman settlement were still evident in say the 13th or 14th centuries is of course open to question. But for some reason the ancient farmers did not plough the area and that had made me wonder why –it was that wondering which motivated me to explore the site. Which turned out to be a good move, as I’ve recovered over 100 Roman coins. It just goes to show how sometimes a different mind-set can lead to some really good finds.

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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