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Frag of a lion-shaped badge with a rivet used to fix it to some surface. Photograph Tobias Bondesson.

Another day of fruitful fieldwork, with friendly landowners and pretty good weather. We started out with 20 man-hours in the fields around a fortified hilltop settlement in Tingstad parish. The hillfort was trial-trenched in 1903, yielding the richest finds known to date from a 3rd and 4th century settlement in Östergötland. I was hoping that we might run into something interesting of 5th century date. No such luck: our oldest datable find all day was a piece of a 9th century copper-alloy equal-armed brooch of the Ljønes type.

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Frag of an equal-armed brooch of the Ljønes type. 9th century. Photograph Tobias Bondesson.

But as so often, the Tingstad site offered some interesting stuff that we aren’t actually looking for: the leg of a Renaissance tripod brass pot and a little cast relief badge depicting a heraldic lion.

I only managed to pick up a fresh roebuck antler. Actually, I’m not a very good metal detectorist. I make much fewer finds than the guys I work with, and this means that they find most of the interesting things (since you have a certain very small chance of being lucky every time you get something out of the ground). I’ve unsuccessfully been trying to pin down the reason that I’m not doing better. Some of the guys have different, more expensive gear than me, but one has the same kind of machine and still finds far more. I’ve checked that I’ve configured everything correctly and that I’m doing all the right things. I think it may be a question of wordless expertise acquired through practice.

On to Östra Husby for lunch and 16 man-hours of metal-detecting on the site where we found a cool piece of 4th century jewellery a year ago. We weren’t at all as lucky this time: our oldest find this year is a finial from a 16th century table knife. One or two 17th century coins (good old Queen Christina, nothing makes a detector shrill like her quarter öre coins) and an 18th century shoe buckle bear mentioning. When we arrived, a posh-looking cat was hunting a squirrel. Later it walked all over my black car, decorating it liberally with muddy paw prints.

One fine thing about metal detector expeditions is the evenings when we sit around a table, cleaning and classifying finds. I’m learning learn a lot about Early Modern small finds, and I sometimes have a chance to pass on some knowledge about 1st Millennium stuff. Good people, good times!

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Comments

  1. #1 Bee
    April 10, 2008

    I know it probably is tiring and sometimes boring work, especially on days you don’t find much. But I’d love to be doing the same work, and I enjoy reading about it. We should all have several lives, so we can pick different professions every time around – damn this atheistic reality, anyway!

    Hope you find something really exciting before your time there is up.

  2. #2 Sávon
    April 11, 2008

    That cat Martin, sent a hallo from me. Look at the direction of the walking line! :-)

  3. #3 Martin R
    April 12, 2008

    Thanks, Bee! Detecting is rarely boring. You always find something, though not necessarily what you’re looking for.

  4. #4 Susanne
    April 13, 2008

    What’s the RAÄ number of the hilltop settlement?

  5. #5 Tobias
    April 13, 2008

    @Susanne: Tingstad 54:1

  6. #6 Jonathan Jarrett
    April 13, 2008

    We get a lot of detectorists in the department I work in and there really does seem to be a special expertise. Some people find loads, some don’t, and it’s not down to equipment as far as anyone can tell. The actual detectorists seem to put it down to an almost mystical affinity for the work that you either have or don’t, but it must be subconscious experience really I guess. But how to do the things that you then learn to repeat first time, eh?

  7. #7 Tobias
    April 13, 2008

    @Jonathan: I don’t believe in any “mystical affinity”. In my world, results are dependent on equipment and dedication. Good equipment help you find more stuff (goes deeper, separates better, resets faster, etc). Dedication, in turn, is needed to get to know your equipment. Hours and hours of digging targets is required, and there is no shortcut here. You have to have the bug, otherwise you will most likely lose heart before soon.
    In the end, it’s experience that counts. Irrespective of the equipment used, the one who knows his or her machine the best will deliver the most (not to be confused with the strategies of lieutenat general Nathan Bedford Forrest, though).
    So, there is no magic, just deiciation.

  8. #8 Brent Guard
    February 14, 2011

    Hello anyone, I found an ansestor born in august 1890 in Tingstad Sweden can anyone tell me where this is at in Sweden? Thank You

  9. #9 Martin R
    February 14, 2011

    Tingstad is a parish in Norrköping municipality:

    http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tingstads_socken

    Run that link through Google Translate.

  10. #10 Iris Andersson
    March 1, 2011

    Furingstad Blad 8G8g Gravfält
    Kopia från RAÄ 15*1992 Efg
    C F Nordenskiölds original 1870-1871
    Who is guarding? Menace! I have a lot to tell you about older respect for this area. I hope someone can help me!

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