The Blog Gets A New Theme…

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Greetings my friends.

I’ve thought of changing the theme on this blog for quite some time now and so today, finally, I browsed the options available. I tried quite a few themes like “Manifest, Shine On, Syntax, Twenty Eleven, Ryu and Twenty Twelve” etc. but decided this fit the bill quite nicely and is called “Chateau”. I might change the header to a photograph of my own and a couple of other little tweaks but essentially, that’s about it.

Hope you like it folks :D

A Most Excellent Detecting YouTube Channel.

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Greetings my friends.

A little while ago, I mentioned I’d acquired a camcorder as a free gift from buying insurance and that I was going to record some detecting sessions with it. In short however, I have not managed to do this yet, so I thought I’d show you a video from someone who’s an expert in this discipline, he’s not only superb with a metal detector but also has a wonderful style of presenting the program. It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to Hans, a YouTube detecting friend whose excellent video channel called TerraGermania, is one of the best I’ve seen and in this particular episode he’s detecting a small stream which has seen activity from at least as far back as Roman times. This is how it’s done folks and I promise you’ll enjoy this:

What did you think?

I’ll be back soon, so cheerio for now :D

Regards James.

Detecting Blackpool And An Earphone Plug Cover….

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The tides at Blackpool are perfect this week, the times of low water moving forward steadily between about 09.00 and 13.30, from Monday to Friday respectively, giving me plenty of options as to when I could go. So here we are, early Wednesday morning, travelling down the by-pass which will take me to Blackpool south, without ever entering the town. Traffic was at a minimum at this time of the morning and when I arrived, I noticed there were still a few free spaces left for me to park my small city car in – joyous, as this saves me about £10 in parking fee’s!

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My Minelab Explorer SE Pro and my trusty edging/border spade!

Before I describe the detecting session and explain my finds, I’ve decided to show you a home-made protective cover for the earphone plug socket and plug, it’s just a simple idea I once read about and adapted for my detector. One takes a small empty snack size bottle of coke or the like and one cuts it down to fit over the earphone socket and slot down into the arm rest clamp. There are a few sizes of these small bottles, so make sure you choose one that will comfortably fit the whole of the socket and plug, without splitting. Here’s a close up of the finished cover, such as it is:

Home made ear phone plug cover.

Home made earphone plug cover – front-side slots behind the arm rest.

Below shows the rear of the cover…..

Cover

The coke bottle cover – this rear-side slot fits over the detector rest which is situated on the underside of the detector, opposite the arm rest.

This completely protects the earphone socket and plug from any rain or sea-spray etc., certainly one less thing to worry about and something I’ve been grateful for on many occasions!

Blackpool beach – squaring up to become a nice day, its was already nice and warm – T-shirt weather!

mmmm

An almost deserted Blackpool beach.

I concentrated my first search around the south pier area and stayed close to the end of the pier itself, the sand seemed lower here but even so, I couldn’t get as close as I wanted, there was just too much interference from so much iron, not only the pier but lots of loose iron debris too.

I’ve made some very nice gold finds around this area over the years and some lovely Victorian gewgaws’ but I’ve never found more than the odd coin or two in all that time and even then, ninety percent of those coins were pre-decimal. It came as a surprise then, when I found twelve modern coins totalling £2.34, all in a relatively small area.

I extended my search around the pier but didn’t find anything else except some bits of copper tube/wire, some shells (rifle and handgun) and including an unfired blank but even so, I decided to find another spot. Should I just wonder along the beach and look for any likely places, or should I decide on a certain spot and just go? I made my mind up to wonder along the beach for a while, just to see what happened and well…..nothing really happened at all, my only discoveries were a few bits of trash!

I was a little disappointed but not really surprised, this area has always been less productive than the pier (for me anyhow) and by now the truth was, I found myself loosing interest – not so good! Another move and I was working my way along the foot of the sea wall and luckily, iron interference wasn’t too bad, just an intense signal at every joint of the “steps”, probably from the reinforcing metal rods located there.

Working the detector carefully, I found several more modern coins – my little pouch of treasure was getting heavier!

Finds.

Finds.

Piles of stones had been deposited along the wall in several places – an indication that other things could have been deposited there too and so it proved, with several more coins finding their way into the bag. Four more £1 coins made a total of six altogether and with the other coins I found, added up to £7.99 – not bad! There was also a junk ring, an old safety-pin and again, a suspender belt button!

Cheerio for now my friends, regards James :)

Some Key Developments In The Evolution Of The Flintlock Musket.

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Greetings my friends, I hope you are all well :)

Fire lance.

Fire lance (top right) – 10th Century. Courtesy of Kaleidoscope.

I don’t know whether it’s my morbid outlook on life but when I think about history, the first thoughts I have and how I remember historical periods, seem to be by the many terrible and/or violent things which have happened due to “mankind’s” well er…..due to “mankind’s” nature, sadly. I know there are many great people and discoveries which have come down through history too, like those of Archimedes, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and many others; brilliant composers and musicians such as Bach and Mozart (Mozart was writing symphony’s from about eight years of age) and wonderful painters like van Gogh, Monet and Rembrandt. It is however, the brutal stories of war, conquest and persecution which I remember mostly; the violent dark ages, the Norman conquest, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation, the witch hunts and the World Wars, to name but a few…..

Even as I was going through my small collection of musket and pistol shot the other day, I was again reminded of the bloody times and millions of people who must have died because of this lethal innovation and its eventual development into the modern assault rifle. I realised soon enough that the beginning of the story goes way back to probably Greece in the 7th Century or even before, further back in history than I imagined, at any rate. This is but a flavour, a glimpse of a few brief moments in history but hopefully, it may also serve as a platform for further investigation.

If one wants to start at the beginning of war-fare by fire and read up on the fascinating discoveries of how we [mankind] probably first arrived at the primitive version of the hand cannon, called a fire lance, then here’s a list of Wikipedia pages which may wet one’s appetite and provide a place to start:

  1. Greek Fire.
  2. Fire Arrows.
  3. Fire Lance.

Gun powder (potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal) or black powder as it is also known, was first thought to have been used in China around the 9th Century but initially, the properties of these ingredients were an accidental discovery whilst seeking an elixir to prolong human life and in the early stages, it was only used in fireworks.

It was probably as early as the 10th Century that black powder was first used for military purposes, in the form of the fire lance. A tube filled with gun powder and sometimes metal shards or darts, was attached to the end of a spear and used as a type of exploding javelin which was thrown at the enemy after ignition. If hit, the enemy would be showered in exploding gun powder, damaging projectiles and then the spear itself but the first significant documented use of such weapons, did not occur until the defence of De’an County, China, in 1132.

I suppose firing or igniting the fire lance was a rather risky business, especially the early types which had barrels or tubes made of bamboo. Some of these most probably exploded in all directions when fired but nevertheless, facing several hundred or several thousands of these weapons for the first time, must have been an awe-inspiring and shocking experience to an invading enemy. Eventually, barrels were cast in bronze, which made things a lot more user-friendly and facilitated the next stage of development for this “gun”.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Hand Cannon.

Cannon/Bombard/Gonne/Gun (Gun is a modern term given for a later development). 

With improvements in the development of the fire lance and the explosive yield of black powder, a new era in gun ware-fare was about to be born with the introduction of the hand cannon. Probably first used in 13th Century China but quickly spreading throughout Europe (Europe probably already knew the recipe for gun powder – Roger Bacon’s Opus Majus and Opus Tertium 1267).

Hand cannon. Courtesy of Wikimedia commons,

Hand cannon or bombard – Western Europe (1390  – 1400).
Courtesy of Wikipedia commons.

Originally fired by two people, one to hold the “stock” and aim the cannon, the other to ignite the powder through a small hole in the top of the breech with a piece of rope, a hot piece of coal, a stick or similar but if the stock or cannon was propped against/on something, then it could be fired by just one person. Extremely inaccurate and weighing anything from about 1.5kg to 15kg, the firer just aimed the weapon in the general direction of the target and hoped for the best; the closer they were, the better.

These developments allowed for more effective projectiles to be fired from the tube, including balls of metal or sometimes stone, the range of which was much improved; tactics for battle slowly began to follow a different course but at this stage, cannon power and ammunition still had difficulty penetrating body armour. Of course, this soon changed and the demand for “artillery” such as the hand cannon and other firearms, increased dramatically on the battlefield.

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Large bronze cannon (breech-loading) of the type used by the Ottoman Empire in the conquest of Constantinople (1453). Courtesy of Wikimedia.

By the 14th Century, the hand cannon was being used in Europe and the Middle east but other developments such as corned powder, the slow match and the flash pan, facilitated the next stage of development of not only cannons but the musket and other small firearms…..

The Arquebus.

Arquebus - Topkapi palace, Istanbul. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Arquebus – Topkapi palace, Istanbul (unsure of date).
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thought by many as the true forerunner of the musket and most widely used from about 1500 – 1700, pinning down the original development of the arquebus was rather vague, probably in China or Europe. They were documented a being used in some numbers in Hungary from 1458 and exhibited a revolutionary firing mechanism. It was called the “matchlock”, a dramatic improvement as far as lighting the powder was concerned as it took away the need for performing this task by hand, or firing the weapon with two people. Using these weapons in the field became much easier.

The operation of a “matchlock” arquebus, involved a slow match held in a curved metal clamp, which later became the trigger mechanism of the “gonne” proper. The match + firing mechanism (lock) = matchlock and this is a general term used for all types of weapon with this design of firing mechanism. When the string or trigger was pulled, a serpentine shaped clamp (curved metal clamp) lowered the match into the flash pan, this in turn ignited the powder in the breech. It fired a metal ball and again, with no standardization, the ammunition usually had to be tailor-made for each gun. Because of this, ammunition making tools which were suited to the bore of each individual gun, were issued to each owner so they could form extra ammunition in the field – a joyous occasion, I’ll bet!

Another development in the early 16th Century, was the “wheel-lock” firing mechanism. A complicated and skilful design but too intricate for mass production and was mainly used for élite, made-to-measure guns and guns needed for special operations (they were better made arquebus and more accurate over slightly longer distances than the easier to produce matchlock design).

The superb workmanship of a wheel-lock mechanism from a pistol made in Augsburg, probably manufactured around 1580:

Exterior of Wheel-lock mechanism.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Exterior of Wheel-lock mechanism.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

One wouldn’t want to get mud or grit inside here.

Interior of wheel-lock mechanisn.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Interior of wheel-lock mechanism.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

When the trigger is pulled, a sprung mechanism incorporates a spinning steel wheel which rubs abrasively against a piece of iron pyrite, a shower of sparks is created which ignites the powder in the flash pan.

The Flintlock Musket.

By the early 17th Century and several further developments in the firing mechanism eg. the snaplock, the snaphance and the doglock etc., the flintlock mechanism was born. A tremendously important step as now the operation carried out by the “dog” (a sort of safety catch), was no longer required – the whole firing sequence (apart from priming the flash pan and loading the powder and ball) would now be facilitated by the internal workings of the lock. Many different types of weapon came to use the flintlock mechanism but the musket was the most popular and again, as in other pieces which have come before it, this was a smooth bore, muzzle-loading type weapon.

Flintlock mechanism. Courtesy of The Arms Guide.

Flintlock mechanism.
Courtesy of The Arms Guide.

The original musket was large (from 5 – 6 feet long) and heavy (10 – 12lbs), it originally used a forked rest when discharged and fired a round lead ball. As in other “gonnes” like the smaller arquebus, the ball was slightly less in diameter than the bore, allowing for any potential build up of debris in the barrel and in this way, the ball would still be able to exit, unhindered.

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Some musket balls and pistol shot.

The musket was capable of penetrating body armour at a longer range (probably up to 150 yards) and was first used for this purpose but when the weight and length of the gun had been reduced somewhat, they were more easily carried around and were used more by infantry soldiers and small skirmish type groups in closer combat than just for long-range work.

They proved very successful when deployed in a rank firing formation; one line of men fire and then they move to the back of the rank, the next line then fires and then moves to the back and so on. The front line may remain where they are or take a step forward each time it’s their turn to fire, by the time every line has fired the first has re-loaded and is ready to fire again – a continuous volley of bullets. This strategy required that the oncoming enemy was allowed to come within 50 or 60 yards or so of the lines of musketeers before the order to fire was given and at this range, the continual volley of bullets were devastating to the advancing infantry.

Brown Bess

The famous British flintlock musket – the 1756 version long land pattern “Brown Bess”. Courtesy of Military Heritage.

The “Brown Bess” smooth bore, flintlock musket is the longest-serving firearm of the British army, used from 1722 – 1838, it reputedly had a maximum range of about 175 yards and was only replaced in 1839 by a similar musket, the only difference being the newly developed percussion cap type firing mechanism. The first Brown Bess was just over five feet long and could accommodate a seventeen inch bayonet attached to the end, making a total length of just over six and a half feet. The bore of the barrel was .75 inches diameter, or .75 caliber (cal) as it is also known, it generally fired a bullet of .69 cal to allow for the barrel fouling with powder residue.

In my view (humble though it is), one of the most important developments of all was the invention of the rifled musket by the early 19th Century: a set of grooved spirals down the internal surface of the barrel, caused the bullet to spin before exiting the gun. The spin enabled it to fly on a very straight trajectory and along with further developments in the design of the bullet, was a big leap forward in the accuracy and range of the weapon i.e. now very accurate to 500 yards or more and still deadly at over 1000.

Although true rifles had been in evidence for some time, they were not yet a viable proposition for the battlefield. They took far too long to re-load and this became more of an increasing problem as again, debris progressively built up in the barrel after each shot. This was one of the reasons why in 1853, the British “Enfield” muzzle-loading, percussion cap, rifled musket had replaced the smooth bore flintlock musket in the British army; muskets were quicker to reload and were more user friendly than rifles. Likewise, during the American civil war in the 1860’s, the American 1861 “Springfield” rifled musket was the main weapon, followed by the Enfield.

Minie balls and an Enfield.

Minie balls and an Enfield on the right (bullets just over actual size).

The minie ball began to replace round ball shot from about 1830 – 1840, it allowed much quicker muzzle-loading of rifled barrels. The minie ball had a flange type hollow at the end and ribs which expanded when fired, the bullet then fit the rifled barrel more snugly and more pressure was built up in the breech, dramatically increasing the muzzle velocity and the range.

This is the story so far, the stage was now set for the development of the breech-loader and the true rifle proper, followed by the assault rifle of today. This is where the tale will continue next time. Until then, have a good week and cheerio folks…..

Regards James :)

References.

Sixpences At The Squires Gate…..

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Over the course of time, most anything can and does happen with the movement of sand on the beach and that includes movement by things other than the tide. When I arrived at Squires Gate, Blackpool, I was still expecting several inches of extra sand at the top of the beach but instead, I had a nice surprise. A 10 meter strip had been scraped clean by the bulldozer – right down to a bed of pebbles which are usually only exposed after big tides and choppy sea’s. This was a real bonus as there was extra sand everywhere else and as I looked around the piles made by the machine, I could see that a lot of trash had been scraped up too. Unfortunately, some modern finds will also have been gathered in the debris but one can’t have everything and in any case, I prefer the older finds which may be underneath! I must also say that gold rings tend to settle in places like this too, sinking through the sand but unable to penetrate the pebble layer.

Here’s some of the trash which was still left!

Trash.

Trash – from pull-tabs to light bulbs.

There were many people on the sand but the pebbles were clear, no other detectorists were in sight either, so I almost had it to myself. I started on manual sensitivity and set it to level 22 (least sensitive = 0, most sensitive = 32), detecting in all-metal mode which means seeing every metal target (no discrimination) and using ferrous tones (giving a signal tone based on the targets iron content as opposed to its conductivity).

As I worked my way along the pebble bed, I immediately started to find pre-decimal coins and to my delight, a few of them were sixpences. I was hoping these coins were silver but all except one were rather encrusted and green, maybe they were minted towards the end or even after true silver/silver-alloy coin production I thought, as more copper etc., was added at this time. One sixpence did however, turn out to be sterling silver and two others were 50% silver. Their position at the top of the beach allows the coins to be exposed to more oxygen (longer water-free periods between tides). This means more corrosion for the coins with less silver in them, as oxidization occurs with other metals which may be present in those coins i.e. when copper is oxidised, it turns green (it’s all about chemical reactions, bonds and the movement of electrons, kids). Besides this, particles of sand and other foreign bodies stick hard to help form the encrustation.

On the top row are the sixpences and describing from left to right, the first one is a sterling silver Queen Victoria young head (pre 1887) it has had much wear and tear and I couldn’t see a date and hardly any detail. I suspected this coin had a high silver content as there was no encrustation and the damage and lack of detail, was due to abrasion and staining. The next four coins date 1942, 1945 and 1948 with second from right again having no date as yet. (Silver ceased to be used in British coins after 1946).

 

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The finds.

I found a few “new” one-pence’s, a couple of two-pence’s and some other odd’s and sod’s like a couple of hair clips and several suspender belt buttons (naughty, naughty eh?). I can just imagine, mostly WW2 servicemen I think, taking their dates for a nice quiet stroll along the beach after a night out and a few beers, suggesting a sit down in the dunes to admire the night sky but of course, having some ulterior motive in mind, perhaps? Honestly, with the total number of suspender belt buttons I’ve found here over the years, I could start a little shop :D

Anyhow, it was getting rather crowded here by now, so I decided to move down the coast a little way to Lytham St. Annes. I didn’t go to the pier area this time though, it would be crowded here too, instead I moved just a little further south, almost into the jaws of the Ribble and the last sandy beach on this side of the estuary.

Here’s a few pictures of the second beach I visited (I forgot and left the camera in the car for the first one – it’s just an age thing!).

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The second beach, this time at Lytham St. Annes (looking north).

This was about 11.00 am, maybe a bit early for many beach goers yet…

Most

Most of the finds came from the dry sand and pebbles at the top of the beach.

Grandma and Granddad, the dog and the grand-kids.

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Having fun.

A few more people had gathered by 12.00 o’clock, detecting was getting more difficult as I always feel self-conscious if it gets too busy.

Scruffy beach.

A bit scruffy looking (the beach I mean, lol) but some finds here.

The kids showed a lot of interest and wanted to try and dig targets for me.

end/start of beach

Looking in the other direction (south) – the end or start of the sandy beach, depending on which way you look at it.

There is a rich biodiversity in the mud-flats and marshland habitat of the Ribble estuary.

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Looking across the Ribble estuary to Merseyside (about 10 miles at this point).

It was a little hazy as I looked across the estuary today.

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Large candle.

I did meet a couple of nice people as I was detecting here, one was a lecturer from an agricultural college and we had a useful chat about modern farming methods and animal welfare but that’s another story, we also talked about metal detecting on beaches other than those in the UK. The Canary Islands were one of the locations she mentioned and her brother-in-law always detects the beach where he stays every year, always finding enough money to pay for the evening drinks – great work if you can get it! On the other hand, I’m struggling to find enough to pay for a single beer lol, good job I don’t drink much (well only water) :D

I think most of us detectorists have sometimes wondered what it’s really like to look for treasure on foreign shores, the mountains or the desert. I have imagined all sorts of scenario’s in years past, where I discover a huge gold nugget in a remote desert, or a vital clue to where pirate treasure is hidden, to go on an adventure in the mountains and discover secret clues to Jesse James gold. I think for me it’s the adventure, the exciting sense of discovery and in the case of artefacts and coins, the sincere wonder of reaching back and touching the past.

Have a lovely week my friends, best wishes, James :)

Rise Up!

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Well, it doesn’t seem like a year since the car was serviced but as usual, time has flown by. I don’t know about you but I always feel better for the car after it’s been serviced, like it has sensitive feelings and its breathing a sigh of relief! I suppose I give the car a character very similar to myself, like some sort of transference thing or a sub-conscious admittance of my own insecurities (where’s Sigmund Freud when you need him eh?).

Anyhow, rather than the dealer having the car for the whole day, I was also given the option of waiting for it, so I opted for this and consequently, I’d a couple of hours to kill. I’d already decided to take a nice stroll along the Lancaster canal, which is only about 100 meters away. The canal used to run further into Preston but was filled in and built upon, rail and road services had been extensively developed and the demand for goods to be transported on the canal had dropped significantly.

The prevailing wind has blown the duck weed to this end of the canal, one almost feels like one could step onto it and walk right across (especially if its dark) – but don’t try it kids, you’ll disappear under it! I took my camera with me, so this is some stuff I photographed, I hope you like it.

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The start of the Lancaster canal at Preston.

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Looking back!

As I walked north, away from Preston, the terraced houses on the opposite bank have very steep back yards/gardens, reaching all the way down to the canal. Some people have successfully staged these out and created nice area’s to relax in.

Staging

Good staging work.

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A nautical themed “chill out” area.

Some feathered friends…..

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Moorhen.

Below is a photo of four young cygnets born in spring…..

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Young mute swan cygnets.

These are the same cygnets now, what a difference.

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Mute swan adult and the four very large cygnets.

I’ve seen this duck many times, he’s a real placid old chap, bless him.

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A very old friend.

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Weeping willow.

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A “thatched” gazebo in a garden on the opposite bank of the canal.

I don’t know if this is a specific or general statement against the establishment, or something else?

Graffitti

Street Art – making a statement?

This piece of street art was at the beginning of the bridge which carries the Blackpool Road, there’s more street art/graffiti as one goes through the tunnel:

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Under Blackpool Road.

Sign post.

Distances are in miles.

Well folks, I had come to the end of my walk as by this time (and with the walk back to the dealers), the car would be ready and all renewed once more! They even valet the car for customers and give it a pressure wash, so it’s all good.

My next trip was to Lytham St. Annes for a detecting session and it was packed out with people basking in the sun so I’ll write this up during the week; I also had a nice talk with a lecturer from an agricultural college about modern farming methods but also about detecting the beaches in Europe and the Canary Islands, so I’ll tell you about this too – good stuff!

Until then mes amis, regards James :)

Related.

Metal Detecting and the Old Tram Bridge. (detectingblackpool.wordpress.com)

 

Guest Post by Crawfords Metal Detectors (UK)…..

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Hello there my friends.

It’s my pleasure to introduce a guest post from Crawfords Metal Detectors, one of the principal centres for metal detecting excellence in the UK (link at the bottom of this post) and a company who’s products and customer service are second to none.

The development of metal detectors and their aid in archaeological discovery.

Until a few decades ago, many people felt frustrated and unsatisfied when learning history or visiting museums — the history never came alive, and the museum exhibits were behind glass cases. The only ones who could make physical contact with the past were people like archaeologists and museum staff. However, all that began to change with the birth of metal detecting as a hobby, in the mid-20th century, and it soon became clear how greatly metal detecting enriches our knowledge of the past.

The metal detectors used in the 1950’s and 1960’s were very basic, but by the 1970’s the technology had progressed dramatically, with many innovations including printed circuit boards, transistors and microprocessors, so the machines proved increasingly capable of making some amazing discoveries. The early hobbyists, especially in the UK, were primarily interested in financial gain, and spent their time on beaches looking for items lost by recent visitors. However, the much greater potential of the hobby soon became clear, with frequent discoveries of unrecorded types of artefacts and coins, which substantially contributed to the understanding of the country’s past.

Unfortunately, for a long time there was a great deal of mutual distrust between metal detecting hobbyists and professional archaeologists. Archaeologists strongly distrusted hobbyists, suspecting them of removing valuable artefacts for personal gain, thus destroying the sites and the context of the artefacts. The hobbyists resented archaeologists for excluding them from their sites.

However, these attitudes have softened in recent years, as archaeologists have realized that they often lack expertise in the correct use of metal detectors. This has brought a realization that cooperation could lead to far more fruitful results. Now it is much more likely to happen that detectorists discover important sites, and hand them over to archaeologists to excavate.

One example of this cooperation was in 1984, when a wildfire in Montana provided a unique opportunity to investigate the Battle of Little Bighorn, the site of Custer’s Last Stand in 1876. Hobbyists with metal detectors were recruited to sweep the battlefield, but when they heard beeps, they marked the objects with flags and left them in place, enabling the archaeologists to take careful notes. This made it possible to reconstruct the sequence of events, and disprove the myths that had surrounded the battle.

Another famous example occurred in Germany in the 1980’s, when the use of a metal detector led to the rewriting of history. In 1987, Tony Clunn, a serving British Army officer, used a metal detector to search for the site of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in the year AD 9, in which Roman legions were comprehensively defeated by Germanic tribesmen. It had always been assumed by historians that this battle was close to the modern town of Bielefeld, but the evidence Clunn unearthed with his metal detector led archaeologists to realize that the true site of the battle was at Kalkriese, about 20 miles north.

Meanwhile, in the USA, organizations like the NPS SEAC (South-east Archaeological Centre) have been cooperating with metal detector hobbyists to conduct surveys of further historic battles on American soil. This relationship began in 1992, when a group of hobbyists in Chattanooga approached their local historian to offer assistance with the battlefield surveys. The SEAC realized that more expertise in using their own equipment would make a profound difference in the reliability of their results.

One example of a battlefield survey was the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, during the Revolutionary War, in what is now Kings Mountain NMP. In the course of the project, about 90 acres of the battlefield were surveyed by the metal detectorists, and hundreds of artefacts were recovered, the locations of which gave a clear picture of the assaults that took place up the side of the mountain. The result was a much more accurate and complete understanding of the battle than had been available previously.

One reason why the services of hobbyists are so important for investigating the past is that the equipment used for this purpose is particularly powerful, and needs a lot of skill to operate. It is important to be able to detect material of different types and at different depths and if possible to indicate how deep the object actually is, as this has implications for dating. The most versatile type is the VLF, or very low-frequency, detector.

VLF detectors combine two coils — the outer one acts as a transmitter, which uses alternating current to create a magnetic field, which will be distorted by a metal object. The inner coil acts as a receiver, which reads the magnetic field and converts it into an audio tone. These detectors also have electronic circuits called phase demodulators, enabling the user to discriminate among different types of metal, and a ground-balance function, to avoid receiving signals from naturally occurring minerals.

The skill of hobbyists in using this state-of-the-art equipment, combined with the ability of the detectors to discriminate among types of metallic targets, is proving indispensable to the investigations of many historical events, all over the world. At the same time, amateurs with a passion for history are no longer excluded from the privilege of direct hands-on contact with the past. This symbiotic relationship provides hope for the future, as vast amounts of ancient treasures remain beyond the reach even of today’s advanced technology.

Crawford’s Metal Detectors are based in Scunthorpe, UK. Since 1995 they have supplied metal detectors from leading manufacturers to customers throughout the world, as well as becoming a trusted source of advice and help.

They can be contacted at http://www.crawfordsmd.com/

I hope you enjoyed the post and please do take a look at their website.

My best regards, James :)

Detecting at Squires Gate…..

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Wild onion or crow garlic – Allium vineale.  The sand dunes at Squires Gate, Blackpool.

Low water for the tide at Blackpool was at 7.04 am and if I was to follow the general rule of arriving 2 hours before this, would mean me setting off from home at about 4.00 o’clock in the morning! With the time it takes me to get my head into gear so I can actually set off somewhere and the other little things I need to do, like taking my little Yorkshire terrier, Sam, out for a walk and making a flask of coffee etc., I decided I would just have a short nap on the couch and not go to bed. This was no hardship for me as I often end up nodding on the settee, I don’t sleep much in any case. This night was no different from many others and in between cat-naps and getting up to make more tea, I thought about the events of the previous day…..

I took my 82-year-old mother on a routine shopping trip to the supermarket, she loves these trips, it makes her feel happy and contented, something which I like to see. We were accompanied by my grandson (my mom’s great-grandson), who is also called James and its got to be said that my mum and he get on famously together. They’re always full of mischief and if I’m being painfully honest (my pain), when they are together and both are really up for trouble, its hard to tell their naughty behaviour apart.

It usually starts with little things, both of them knowing exactly how to wind me up, my mum keeps nipping my bottom as I’m walking down the food aisles and my grandson takes every opportunity to misdirect the trolley. This is how it starts but unfortunately, it doesn’t stop here and by the time the trip is over, I’ve very nearly received another ban from the enduring and long-suffering staff (just kidding). James always likes to go to the games aisle and today my mother announced she was going with him; a great-grandma and great-grandson, a harmless combination one would think. Not so with these two mischievous imps and even as I said OK about them going, alarm bells started ringing in my head and a strange imaginary voice screamed at me “what have you done”, so only one minute later and with some anxiety, I set off to join them.

I arrived a fraction too late and was just in time to see James, who had acquired a football from somewhere, dribbling up and down the aisle. To my added horror I saw my mum with another football in her hands and I had an awful feeling that I knew exactly what she was going to do with it. I’d just about time to say, “mum, please don’t”…..then she drop kicked the ball down the aisle, where it bounced into the till area among the shocked customers and came to rest near the magazine racks. My grandson had now thrown himself on the floor in hysterics and my mum was waving her arms around and cheering like she’d just scored the winning goal in the world cup…..I’m afraid they both got the red card for this performance and are now facing a long ban! I gave them the usual talk about wild and dangerous behaviour but somehow I don’t think I made an impression, the words “and some seed fell on stony ground” sprang to mind…..

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A species of evening primrose Oenothera spp. – Squires Gate, Blackpool.

Back to reality and time to get up; I’d already turned off the alarm-clock and was ready to start the dreaded process of getting my mind on an even keel to face the day and an hour or so later, I was ready to put the gear in the car. It was coming light now and this always cheers me up, setting off in the dark is always much harder for me. Besides all the detecting gear (spare spade, battery etc.), I decided to take the camera with me today, I’ve been reluctant to take it since I got sand in the other one so I was determined to be more careful on this trip.

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My S4400 Fujifilm bridge camera.

I looked for a suitable spot to detect, hoping to find where the sand had been scoured out by the tide, revealing the lower layers which lay beneath and which contain the history of days long gone by. Generally speaking though, the weather in the UK, along with other countries in the temperate zone, are much calmer in summer than winter. There is less wind and wave energy to cause the movement of sand from the beach but sand is still suspended by the tide and may be deposited higher up the beach, the waves in summer sometimes not having enough energy to carry the sand back out.

This was the case now and as I looked around, my first impressions were that a lot of sand had indeed been deposited, everywhere I looked the beach was smooth without any features like exposed pebble beds, wave ripples formed in the sand or any scoured out gullies in evidence – a bad sign for detecting. I wasn’t perturbed though, I’ve experienced these conditions many times before but I also knew I was going to have to work a little harder to make any finds…..

In this instance, working harder not only meant making the most of one’s chosen detecting area but as importantly, in finding a good detecting area in the first place, amidst this near featureless expanse of sand (in a metal detecting sense).

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A lower strip of sand near the sea’s edge.

I looked closer at the top section of the beach and deemed there was about 2 feet of extra sand deposited, quite a bit more than I had anticipated. There were two or three lower area’s further out on the sand, lower in the sense of the beach having shallow drainage channels in these area’s and although the sand was still generally higher here too, I decided this was the best bet.

I worked my way along this wet strip of sand near to the water’s edge but I didn’t find much here; a fishing lure, a small piece of wire and two rivets.

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Finds.

After the lack of success out on the sand, I decided to move right in and detect where most folk do a little sunbathing or where they sit on the sand to eat their lunch on a break from work; I started to pick up the odd coin. I detected for a further couple of hours and found £3.19, two pre decimal coins and an old decimal 50 pence piece, the crown bottle top was old too but I can’t remember what beer it came from – a pity! I’ll be making another trip soon my friends and this time I’ll be going for gold near south and central piers, situated off the promenade at Blackpool – fingers crossed.

Best wishes and regards my friends, James :)

St. Annes Beach Detecting and some Victorian Architecture…..

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A nice little metal detecting trip to Lytham St. Annes the other day, was just the ticket to cheer me up after the last few months of problems. It was very warm but overcast and the atmosphere was humid and heavy, the air was almost tangible and seemed to fold around me like a blanket, making it seem harder to catch a decent breath as I walked across the sand. I took these shots on the way to my detecting location which was around the pier area; there weren’t many people about as yet but it would probably get a little busier towards lunch time, I thought.

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Original Victorian water fountain.

The Victorians were a decorative bunch and in modern terms, built things to last; this area was certainly built with tender loving care and has since been maintained in the same vein. This beach resort is the St. Annes part of Lytham St. Annes and from Victorian times until the present day, has attracted a more wealthy clientèle than Blackpool. An old hand at metal detecting told me that in the early day’s, St. Annes beach was the place to go for the more expensive jewellery and good finds were made regularly. It’s a lot harder than that now, you bet.

Just down the road, Lytham also has some very elaborate properties and enjoys some of the area’s finest examples of Georgian architecture, if you ever get the chance to visit, it would be well worth your while if this sort of thing interests you.

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A small but quaint Victorian bandstand.

The curved light blue area is a child’s paddling pool; the last time I was here, my mate threatened to throw me in for stealing some of his candy floss heh heh, he couldn’t catch me though and in the end he had to give in….I was driving him home!

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Bandstand and paddling pool.

In this picture below, notice the horizontal metal bars near the glass, these were for resting the ladder on when the lamps were lit every night and again, when the lamps were put out in the morning. They were originally lit by gas…..

Victorian street lamp and gazebo.

Victorian street lamp and gazebo.

On the night of the 9th December 1886, the German barque “Mexico” foundered off Southport (across the Ribble estuary) and thirteen men with the Lytham lifeboat went to the rescue – all hands died at sea and this statue commemorates the valour of those involved.

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Commemorating the men of the Lytham lifeboat – all lost at sea in 1886.

An essential part of the beach amenities – ice cream, drinks and other refreshments.

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Ice cream or candy floss?

The promenade, the sea barrier, the kiosk and the Victorian pier (with a bouncy castle thrown in). Plenty of room to detect here, no problem.

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The pier, ice cream kiosk, sea barrier and the dry part of the beach.

The top of the beach is only dry for the moment, the highest tides coupled with a strong onshore wind can sometimes change all that, the sea occasionally coming over the barrier and onto the promenade.

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The old wooden pier (a docking stage for goods and passengers), sitting some way off the end of the “new” Victorian one.

My detecting area today was mostly around the piers, these are just one of several types of obstacle which may help trap finds, especially over an extended period of time or during any rough weather etc…..

I walked out on the sand until I came about level with the end of the “new” pier, there was a chap standing there and he was looking out to sea, he was quite alone and appeared to be in some trouble, or so I thought. He was performing some intricate moves with his arms and I realised he was actually involved in tai chi, also known as tai chi chuan, a discipline which involves deep breathing, relaxation and slow gentle movements to help focus the mind. In some of my other blogs, I’ve mentioned the importance of having one’s mind relaxed and in tune when one detects, it so helps with one’s success in maximizing the number of finds one will make. I bet this sort of thing would be perfect for that and I don’t think I would be much perturbed in performing these actions in public, I believe I would be able to focus and shut off normal outside influences, like random noise and people’s movements etc., as long as they don’t come too close, ha ha.

I started detecting and after about 20 minutes I had my first find – a modern 20 pence coin, next came a highly conductive 5 pence piece, it identified as iron but the target sounded small, with a nice tone – if in doubt, just dig. I found several more modern coins but then I got too close to the iron structure of the pier (I was almost under it) and it started to interfere with the signals, the Minelab 11 inch double “D” coil not working too well here.

I moved away to a strip of wet sand and as I looked carefully, I realised this strip was a little lower than the rest of the surrounding beach. Here’s a closer shot of the old wooden pier and the strip of wet sand:

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One can see the dip in the hight of the beach, creating the wet strip of sand.

I found a further 3 coins in this area, I was hoping for more but I was to be disappointed…..this time! One can see the sea beyond the wooden pier, the tide was on its way in but there was still plenty of time left for me to finish the session so I moved a little closer in to shore.

An interesting feature of the beach, half way between the old pier and the promenade, is a strip of black sand about 30 meters wide, just under the surface. I don’t know why this feature is here like this but the layer of black sand is only about 6 inches thick and then it returns to normal sand again under this layer. It’s been like this for years and it hasn’t changed at all, it would be interesting to hear what a geologist thinks is the reason for this as one usually finds black sand under normal sand and not normal sand under black sand (usually black sand has a higher density, due to its iron content). In the past, I’ve found a platinum ring with three small diamonds and a Victorian gold ear-ring with two larger diamonds, within this layer – lovely finds.

No gold or platinum today though but not to worry. On the way back to the prom, I met a nice old chap who was eager to talk about what he’d seen people find using metal detectors. After a list of jewellery, he told me of a guy who detected all day and came off the beach with every pocket bulging with money, over £500 he said…..I choked as I thought about the £1.02 I had in my finds pouch! People can’t help but exaggerate sometimes lol.

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Finds.

The finds included four 20 pence pieces, a 10 pence piece, a 5 pence piece, two 2 pence pieces and four 1 pence pieces, an junk ear-ring and a shell casing. There was the usual bits and pieces and a glass marble which was down the hole with one of the coins, it was a good day.

Until the next time my friends, take care.

Regards James :)

Down By The River…..

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Greetings my friends.

Sorry for the longer than usual absence but I’ve been rather incapacitated lately and altogether restricted in my movements. The truth is, I’ve not been able to go detecting or anywhere else for that matter and I must admit the whole situation has put me on a bit of a downer, that’s probably why I’ve also struggled to write anything worth posting. I’ve had some tests on my gastrointestinal tract at the hospital but haven’t received a diagnosis yet, so I’ll let you know. Anyhow, the other day I decided to put my woe’s behind me and go down to the river for a little time-out and of course, that included taking the metal detector and camera with me.

Robin.

Robin.

A nice old chap (just like me), puts out food for the birds at the same riverside locations everyday, this is one of them and several species of woodland bird are already lined up waiting as the gentleman arrives, eager for their breakfast! A joy to watch and interesting to see the diverse feeding behaviour of the different species, I smile to myself as I picture the apparently random barrage of feeding birds but on looking closer, I realise there is a certain order within the chaos.

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Wood pigeon.

The wood-pigeon usually has top spot when feeding though, they just sit on the post until they’re full, the smaller birds waiting in the surrounding bushes and trees, rather impatiently, I might add! I just missed a shot of the pigeon feeding, it flew into this tree as I approached and left shortly afterwards. As soon as the pigeon left, the other birds were back, the tits flitting in and out feeding as a community, the cheeky robin just coming and going throughout the entire proceedings and with the occasional visit from a chaffinch.

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Under the watchful eyes of a grey squirrel.

This grey squirrel was curious, wondering what I was up to but it also made sure there was always a safe distance between us; his friends over the river are much tamer, there is much more human traffic over there and with it a bigger variety and number of food treats. The birds and animals have come to enjoy the human food subsidy they receive, which is available to them all year round.

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A young rabbit hiding in the undergrowth, pretending it wasn’t there.

This young rabbit hopped away as I approached but hid in the undergrowth, it stayed quiet and still until I’d moved on, a tactic I’ve seen before, when a complete escape is not possible (there was a small stream in the way). Whether I’m hiking, walking or indeed metal detecting, being in the midst of nature and beautiful scenery holds a special feeling for me, I always feel much better for the experience. Birds, fish and animals always behave so much better than we do and even if they compete vigorously or some fall prey, one can still sense the harmony they have between each other and their environment. Something we humans are not so good at…..Anyhow, I arrived at the river.

This was my detecting spot:

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A small pebble beach – just after a flood but already beginning to silt up with the tides.

I began detecting but just couldn’t seem to get things right, I guess it took me a while to get the mind-set back and be comfortable with the tones again…..

It took me ages to make my first non-trash find, a five pence coin but unfortunately, that was it and just more trash followed. I found I was uncomfortable and couldn’t concentrate very well. I had to go home. As far as detecting was concerned, I found myself very disappointed, especially as I haven’t any finds to show you but at least there were some nice animals to see. I wanted to apologize to you for the intermittent posts and promise I’ll be back on track as soon as possible.

Take care my friends, James :)

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