Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A Walk 3,000 Years Into The Past

My brother Peter and I enjoyed a day with our metal detectors in glorious sunshine in lovely rural Lancashire yesterday. I had spent some time over the weekend on Google Earth trying to find fields that have been ploughed as the area is mostly pasture land and lost metal items soon sink well below the depth that a typical metal detector can reach. Ploughing churns the fields up and artifacts find their way closer to the surface. I highlighted a number of fields close to interesting landmarks such as old churches and Roman roads and when we arrived at the first of them we were delighted to find the farmer at home and willing to let us search the fields. We had a very pleasant four hours or so in the countryside and this is what we found.

As you can see it is a strange mixture of bits and pieces. But they were lost or discarded over a period in excess of 3,400 years.

No metal detecting trip is complete without a shotgun cartridge case, a foil bottle top, a metal bottle top, a ring pull, a lump of lead and an empty tube of ointment for treating cows' udders and I managed to find the full set.

And I never cease to be amazed at how some domestic items find their way into the remotest fields. Here are a couple of spoons, a couple of taps and a mangled kettle element. How they got there is one of life's mysteries.

But the find of the day went to Pete. He shouted me over and said "I think I might have found something  good". As soon as I saw it I knew that it was a Bronze Age Palstave Axe which was cast long before the Romans arrived in Britain. I said "Good? That's bloody fantastic". I knew that it was several thousand years old but further research and an email to the Lancaster Museum's finds liaison officer confirmed that it is about 3,400 years old. I've arranged to take it to Lancaster in a couple of weeks for recording as it is important that, as responsible detector users, we contribute to the understanding of the history of the areas that we search. You might think that a 3,400 year old axe head was priceless but a quick scan of the Internet puts a value of only a little over £100 on it as the condition after washing off the mud shows that it is less than pristine.

As for me? I found some interesting bits of copper alloy. They all have a nice green patina which indicates that they have been in the ground for some time but I don't think that they are particularly ancient and I don't know exactly what their purpose was - most probably parts from farming machinery. I will ask the finds liaison officer when I show her the axe.