Saturday, February 6, 2010

field of dreams - Alaistair Mcpherson

 The story of the field started three years ago,

 My niece Kaya aged 8, wanted me to take her out for a hunt

with my detector . Having just acquired permission to
detect there it was virgin territory. So out we went - my
wife, Kaya and myself. The field being in set-aside was
practically undetectable, with tufts of grass and only
occasional clear areas. After 10 minutes the ladies were
thoroughly bored so headed for the gate, then “beep
beep” . Digging the signal revealed what the girls
thought was a bit of barbed wire, it was in fact a head and
spring for a 2nd to 3rd Century Roman trumpet brooch.
Now maybe down in the South of Britain that would not
be to uncommon, but up here in Moray in the North of
Scotland this is extremely rare, and with the field almost
undetectable, very frustrating ! However, soon afterwards
the field was ploughed and in the short time before it was
seeded I found another three Roman brooches along with
a couple of hammered Eddies and a Medieval pin. Alas,
the farmer was quick of the mark and the field was deep
ploughed and de-stoned for a crop of
potatoes, so once more a frustrating wait. As the field was
alongside the road which I travelled to work I was able to
keep my eye on it.

Then coming home from work I noticed that they were
lifting the tatties (potatoes), so I knew where I would be
the next day after work! The field is very large, so I
called my mate Richard and asked if he would like to join
me and the next afternoon we went out to access the

We were not going to be disappointed and over the season
2007/2008 we had a haul of three Roman brooches,
a unique Iron Age chariot harness mount, hammered
coinage from 1150 to Victorian silver, a large number of
worked flints and iron age fragments.

The National Museums of Scotland were getting interested,
but by far the best was to come at the end of 2008
and the start of 2009.
2008 saw the field planted in barley and the day after the
crop was cut it rained for nearly a whole week - it was so
frustrating. Richard took one side of the field and I took
the other - after four hours it seemed as if the area was
dead - just a few cartridge bottoms and some grotty Viccy
pennies with Richard not faring much better. Then as I
turned to head up the field to where the car was parked,
“beep beep” and out popped a Early Medieval silver ring.
Being well pleased with myself I put it in my pocket and
gave the dig hole a perfunctory sweep of the coil , “beep
beep” again. Then the fun really began because in my
hand was a mint denarii of Antonius Pious and I had to go
to work……….grrrrr.
Returning over the next few days we collected another
twenty denarii, two sesterious stuck together and a
Roman head stud brooch. Richard also found a complete
Medieval disc brooch complete with pin. As he showed it
to me, I had something I wanted to show him - My first
Medieval gold ring with a sapphire in situ.

“Was there no end to the surprises that this field would turn up!”

Now the National Museums of Scotland were more than
excited, and after a few phone calls, Dr Fraser Hunter and
a small team arranged to do a small exploration of the
site. While we were waiting for the archaeologists to
appear at the end of the week, I went and found an
absolutely beautiful piece of bronze age 'ring money'.

On the Friday morning Dr Fraser Hunter and a small team
turned up with a JCB digger. My first thoughts were I bet
they find nothing, but within minutes of the digger
removing the first 6 inches of topsoil over an area of 50
feet by 50 feet, we had another ten denarii. The next six
inches removed provided another 18, now things were
getting interesting.
Once onto the occupation layer Richard and I were asked
to do a sweep of the site, and once again more denarii,
three sesterious stuck together, Iron age pins of copper
alloy and iron, and also a bucket handle dating to the Iron

The Field of Dreams
The Archaeologist's were over the moon, as they also
found a stone structure below the Iron Age occupation
layer. They are now making plans to geophys the whole
field and do a large scale dig. The local museum has also
forwarded a file to Time Team of the site as a suggestion
for a future programme
As the field was stubble there was still round bales in the
area of the dig waiting to be detected, all be it small
patches - anything continues to be possible. Then winter
descended with a vengeance - The ground was frozen to
depth of 9 inches and any detecting was out of the
question. This situation carried on like this for 6 weeks,
either because of frost or heavy rain. February rolled
round and the field was ploughed, so out we went for a
final throw of the dice before it was planted. First signal,
“bang”, a denarii of Julia Doma, then “bang”, denarii of
Hadrian, then right where the bales were, “beep beep”,
another denarii maybe? But to my surprise, lying in the
spoil, was the most beautiful gold ring with a loop and dot
design. Taking it home and checking it with the digital
microscope, I noticed that it had a repair with a rivet,
which is minute. The field has also produced two button
loop fasteners, which are recognised as being extremely
rare north of the Forth valley.
Now we just wonder what this field will surprise us
with next!

These discoveries featured in the Northern Scot

Newspaper—you can read the article here

metal detecting secrets

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