This week I want to talk to you about reading landscape taking account of visual cues in architecture and what to look out for when reviewing maps.
So lets get on with the show.
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Hey Everybody. Welcome! To Episode 48 of the metal detecting show podcast. My Name is Ciaran and I have been Metal Detecting for nearly 30 Years. This week I want to talk to you about what the landscape might be telling you and what to look out for so lets get on with the show.
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Hello Detectorists welcome to this week’s show, before we start some updates from my world, Still in lockdown but I got out again this week and had a great few hours out with the CTX and 6 inch coil.
It was one of those hunts with very little trash and a few good finds. My finds included an old chicken penny, a gold earring and an assortment of modern stuff so a nice mix of old and new this week.
One of my finds broke my heart as it looked like a ring when it popped out I mean it really looked like a ring but unfortunately it was not to be.
It was a ring shaped piece that had been trimmed off a bit of copper pipe man it looked so like a ring any ways if you want to see my reaction I caught it on camera and you can see it on my youtube channel called The Metal Detecting Show Podcast. Ill pop the link in this weeks show notes.
I have already got this week’s hunt site lined up which is a verge of grass where people get changed into and out of the swimming gear while protected by their cars.
This site on a beach near me and is only 4 foot wide but about a ¼ mile long and I only noticed it recently as some changes had been made to local access redirecting me to a different parking location requiring me to walk past this site and I’m sure you are all the same and constantly looking for potential hunting grounds and this definitely caught my eye.
To be honest this site wouldn’t normally excite me but with lockdown in full effect beggars can’t be choosers and im excited for the change of scenery.
If you have Netflix you will most likely have watched “The Dig” the movie about Basil Brown and the Discovery Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon Hoard in 1937, I wont go into the plot or give any spoilers but there is a conversation at the beginning of the movie where they are trying to decide which mound to excavate first that’s as far as ill go into the movie its great check it out but this prompted me to think that this week we should talk about reading the landscape with a view to looking for clues to potential hunt sites then low aand behold im reading Searcher Magazine and there’s and article called Location, location, Location by Andy Carter so I knew I absolutely had to chat about reading landscape taking account of visual cues in architecture and what to look out for when reviewing maps.
So one of the main adages in metal detecting is go where the people are or more importantly go where the people were and looking at old maps will give you an excellent view of this over the years.
We have talked about reading maps before so I won’t go into how to read a map in much detail but if you can get your self a physical copy of some old maps of your area [worth their weight in gold btw] and compare them to newer maps, this is the secret to reading maps you need to compare them over the years looking for change.
For example in Ireland we have a sport called Gaelic football or Hurling and if you look at a modern map you can see the 1000’s of clubs that scatter the country side in Ireland but if you look at the location of these sites on a Map from the 1800 you will see that the majority of these club sites used to be Cricket Grounds or Commons and that the key your looking for the comparison between what’s there now versus what was there 100’s of years ago.
There can potentially be villages or railway lines no longer around that existed years ago and all that remains is a label and a couple of squares and lines on an old map but that lost villages location my insect with a permission you have.
Review maps and look out for changes in the terrain like have fields been made smaller or bigger is there a holy well or a church that has existed for 100’s of years. Has the route of a river been changed or Dammed. Was there an old Roman Road straight as a die that no longer exists I think you get the idea.
So your onsite and you thinking right where do I start well the landscape can give you some visual queues.
Starting with Water. Water is always good indication of people.
Is there a spring on site often a site of worship or paying homage to the gods or baptismal but most often a site to water your horse or livestock.
is there a river or bridge or even a shallow nearby.
again people would chuck coins off bridges to pay homage but also would travel miles just to cross with their wagons and horse’s at a shallow spot creating a huge potential in finds accumulating there.
Is there a bend in the river either bank of the river bend can deliver finds from far upstream as they are sluiced out of the river up the bank beach or wall.
Looking at the land itself is there holes either sharp or sloping for example if you look at the impact that either of the World wars had on the landscape you will see fox holes that look like someone took a chunk of ground out with an ice cream scoop or trench’s that look like a snake had moved through the landscape but there is also potential for impact craters like meteorite impacts on the moon from crashed planes or more dangerously exploded or unexploded ordinance.
Nettles are always a good indication of a privy pit or a house hold dump especially handy if your bottle hunting near an old farm site.
No variance in the landscape is also a cue sometimes the land is too flat indicating potential manual intervention over the years it may look like a perfectly flat field but it maybe in fact the site of an old horse racing track or as we call them in Ireland a Curragh.
There is Evidence of Horse racing going back 1000’s of years to ancient Greece and even before man has always raced horses and always preferred flat ground to do so.
This Flat land could be an old common or even an old baseball or duelling site.
Other Animals have had impact on the landscape too and have benefited humans over the years for example I knew growing up that the quickest way to cross the plains I lived near was to follow the rabbit and livestock tracks especially if there was bush overgrowth and people have done this for millennia. These Animal trackways will slowly change over 100’s of years but are always worth hunting on. You have done it yourself I bet your walking across a field and subconsciously you start following the little walkway that the animals have made even if it is not the most direct route to your destination, you do this because its convenient and probably a little cleaner.
This even happens in the city’s for example where a new path is laid creating a longer route around a grass area it’ll take only a few weeks for people to start ignoring the new path and take a shortcut across the grass because its again convenient.
Is there a defined boarder to a field, is the field small indicating that it may have belonged to a serf working for the local land lord on their little piece of land. Is there terracing.
People have been working the fields for years 1000s of year in fact the further back you go the more people worked the fields. So again Go where the people have been.
its about looking at what is out of place on the landscape and imagining what has caused it and is there potential that whatever it is will increase the possibility of some great finds.
My latest thing to watch on YouTube is people door knocking on houses looking for permission to search the back yard and it always starts with the hunter driving around looking for potential sites by looking at the Architecture of the house to help date the potential site.
There are a few things that can help you date a house for example starting at the roof obviously if it has a thatch roof the house is old but did you know that slate roofs only became popular in the 14th Century but back then it was only used by the military in castles for its robustness and by the super wealthy of the day as a sign of opulence as it would cost a fortune to transport the heavy building material from the quarry where it was hand cut giving an organic stone look to it. Slate roofs came to the US in the 16th Century.
If you’re looking at a roof and it has perfectly thin slate roof tiles it’s not old the older the slate the thicker it tended to be in irregular shapes that closely resembled a square as best it could.
Along with the roofing material you can look at the chimneys where were only adopted in Castles in the 12th Century a quick way to age a house by the chimney is by its location if the house is a single story house with a chimney in the centre of the roof there is a possibility that the house is old as chimneys on the side of the house only became necessary when a second story was built something the Normans brought to Brittan in 1066. Up to then a chimney was either a hole in the roof or the smoke simply permeated through the roof.
Moving down to the most telling detail of aging a house and that is its windows. Early houses had small casement type windows made out of coloured leaded glass which wasn’t very structurally sound and was draughty which were only replaced by Sash windows in approx. 1676 but then the Georgian 6 over 6 style sash came in fashion allowing home owners to open their windows without changing the façade of their houses.
Top tip if your inspecting a sash window and it only opens from the bottom this indicates that it would be an early Georgian era Sash window potentially dating the house to the mid 16 hundreds. Weights and pullies were then standardised allowing an easier opening a closing in the late 16 hundreds with the upper window being able to open soon after.
The window and glass tax of 1696 which stopped anyone other than the rich from having large pains of glass resulted in the iconic 6 small glass sash window. this design continued till 1845 when the tax was removed and larger panes of glass could be used reducing the windows to two pains of glass per sash.
We then go full Circle back to the casement type of window but with large panes of glass. It seems that windows just kept on growing since then so smaller windows means an older house.
Listen this is only very high level review of something that is a science in its self people have wrote books and books just on the history of the sash window and chimney. So if your interested in it make sure to not take my word for it but got to an actual expert on the subject.
Do you go knocking door to door looking for potential old sites to hunt what do you look out for when examining a site let me know.
That’s it for this week’s I hope you liked this episode of the metal detecting show podcast.
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Get out there eyes down and Happy Hunting.