Sunday, December 31, 2006

Site Research

Front cover illustrations (shown in full and described in the book): 16th century town plan; layout of a medieval manor; railway construction plan and book of reference; facsimile 17th century county map; early aerial photograph; local history book; gold Tudor ring; gold Saxon pendant.
It was one of those metal detecting club meetings when the thorny subject of having no ‘decent’ land to detect on, raised its ugly head, yet again! "Look!" I said. "All you have to do is carry out a little easy site research and communicate the results with the landowner. It makes getting metal detecting permission much easier and you’ll make more and better finds. What’s more your hobby will be more interesting as you will know why the finds are there.""It’s alright for you." Someone responded. "You have access to hundreds of acres of productive farmland and you are positively tripping over good finds.""Yes." I said. "And I only got that through site research. Why don’t you just do the same?""We don’t know how to do it!" Came the chorus. Thirty highly intelligent, highly experienced, highly motivated detectorists and they didn’t have a clue about where to begin research between them.I was stunned. I had started in the early years of the metal detecting hobby when the much-quoted maxim was ‘research really pays’ and had taken that to heart to the extent that I rarely switched on my metal detector on a new site, unless I had done the research first. But thinking about it, even though librarians are among the most helpful people on the planet you can’t go into a library and ask them to find you a productive metal detecting site. They just wouldn’t know what to look for. At the time, I couldn’t even recommend a comprehensive book on the subject as nearly every ‘How To Research’ book, I knew of was either well out of date or so academic that the potential reader needed a language degree to get past the ‘contents’ page. And certainly little has been written before with the express purpose of explaining easy research techniques to find sites for the recovery of coins and artefacts. It grieved me so much that so little was available on site research for detectorists, I decided to write the book myself.Site Research, from Greenlight Publishing, is written for anyone, anywhere in the United Kingdom, interested in improving their finds rate, whether beginner or old-hand and assumes no previous knowledge of research. It will even tell you how to find your library to get started and then how to carry out research in libraries, archives and on a computer, whether you own one or not.The book’s 160 pages are profusely illustrated with a range of useful maps, documents and the finds associated with them. You will be able to read ‘case studies’ and see the results so you can decide the best form of research to find the type of coins and artefacts, which interest you.Maps are an important tool for site research so the main types of map available since the sixteenth century are discussed in detail, including: county maps; Ordnance Survey; town plans; road maps; road, river, canal and railway construction maps; enclosure and tithe maps; estate maps; and sea charts. Just as importantly, you won’t get very far with this type of research if you can’t read a map so I’ve covered practical map reading, including how to locate features from old maps which have now vanished. You will also need to know, what maps are available for your area or research topic and where you can obtain the maps you want to look at, so that’s covered too, including where you can get both Victorian and modern maps for free.Studying aerial photographs used to be an expensive pastime but now, with the advent of hi-tech digital aerial photography you can study much of Britain from the air for nothing. This opens up exciting avenues of research where not only can you spot crop-marks but, for instance, such features as Roman and medieval farming, ancient routes and even anticipate the positions of unknown Roman villas. Some archaeologists believe that 95% of archaeological sites have yet to be discovered. Discover one today!Maps and aerial photographs, however, are only half the story, to ‘flesh out the bones’ of your research you should look, even if only briefly, at written local histories. I am sure you will find them fascinating and just one book could suggest hundreds of potential metal detecting sites, confirm your map and/or aerial photograph research and secure that permission. Wherever you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland there is a guide to the principle local histories in your area. A guide to the best sources for finding metal detecting sites wouldn’t be complete without the Domesday book, which only covers most of England but it paints a fascinating picture of 11th century life and can be easily used to find fantastic sites. Again, having spent your hard-earned cash on my book, you won’t want to spend a fortune on other books so I’ve covered how to get hold of the information as economically as possible.Gaining search permission is another thorny subject. Fortunately site research tends to ‘sell itself’ to the point that not only do farmers willing grant permission to my requests frequently but have been known to give me a bottle of wine! However, in case you need guidance on the best approach, I have included a chapter on gaining search permission.Once you get involved with site research, like me, you will probably be finding coins and objects that have to be reported under the Treasure Act (or Treasure Trove in Scotland). I don’t know what the record is for a single finder in England and Wales, however, I have had to report seven such finds in as many years. The chapter ‘Living with the Treasure Act’ fully explains the procedures and my experiences with the Act.I know of no other book that will guide you swiftly to all the best sources for finding interesting and productive sites for metal detecting, with the added bonus of easily gained permission. It should serve you well for years to come.Good hunting,David Villanueva
"I have enjoyed working on this book and feel that I have personally learnt a lot from it, even though I purchased my first metal detector in 1971 and have been in the hobby for many years." Greg Payne, Editor
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