A head scratcher

It was the last week in September and a very pleasant Sunday. We had all been praying for a bit of rain to improve conditions on the fields as it had been hard going lately.

I and my fellow detectorists from Brentwood and District Metal Detecting Club were enjoying a charity dig in the beautiful Essex countryside. (I would say to anyone thinking about joining a club, the camaraderie is great. If you are a girlie, you needn’t be in the middle of a field on your own!).

I have been detecting now for almost a year with my Garrett 250 and have gradually improved, digging less iron and more interesting finds.

I was having quite a good day and I decided to stay on for an extra hour. A long way down the field I dug a William III milled sixpence in a pretty worn state. My attention was grabbed however, when I heard a commotion about 100 meters up to my left where I spied my friend doing a noisy little dance! Well ……you know what that meant.

I waved my detector in the air and headed along to see what was happening. As suspected she had just dug a little gold item……. A beautiful tiny roman quarter stater. The handful of people still on the field sloped across to marvel at it. It was smiles all round : ) : ) : )

Off we all went in different directions. About 50 meters up I got a clear, dare I say it, perfect signal. The soil was easy to dig and in the first spadeful up came a thick circular disc a bit larger and thicker than a £2 coin. I could not believe my eyes as it appeared to have a dragon on it. I think I actually stopped breathing.

I shouted to my friend who had started to head off back to her car. In disbelief she said ‘What ……. more gold?’ I said ‘no but you have to see this!’ I dropped it into her hand. It was an ‘Oh My Goodness’ moment! I said I thought it was a dragon and she shouted to everyone ‘Noreen’s found a dragon’.

Of course no one came to look at it as everyone was busy making sure my friends quarter stater hadn’t come from a hoard.

I on the other hand was OVER THE MOON.

So here it is.

It took me a day and a half of unsuccessful hunting through artefact books and the internet to realise that the dragon only had two legs and not four. Then, the realisation that the tail looked like feathers followed. It appeared to have a dragon’s head but birds body, that or it was a very fierce looking bird (a bit like myself). It appears to be bronze and the design is rather naïve.

I cleaned it carefully and posted the pictures on the club site. What was it?

By now club members were putting useful suggestions through. The head was definitely similar to the dragon heads on some Viking ships. In support of this I myself had found a Viking stirrup mount across the same fields and it had a similar red colouring. Then again one or two roman coins had turned up here and there also. Just to confuse issues there had also been evidence of Bronze Age and Anglo Saxon activity across the 800 acres.

When I researched birds and mythical creatures I came up with the Pheonix (which rose from the ashes). Wikipedia stated that for the Romans, the Pheonix represented Immortality and also represented Rome itself! Well the thought that I might have found a Pheonix of any kind, whether it be a mount, some sort of keepsake or coin blew my mind. I did not sleep well, way too exciting!

Anyway moving on, another member of the club suggested it was possibly an Anglo/Scandinavian ‘fantastical bird’ from the 10th or 11th century. The beaded border appears on small brooches of the same period and suggested it could be a mount, insert or plaque. Someone else pointed out that the bird might actually have a shield below it and in that aspect is similar to some Viking brooches. Later this same person was able to send through a picture of a small Anglo Saxon coin with a similar creature on it (could be a second or third cousin).

Another friend who is very knowledgeable says his money is on it being a Viking gaming piece. Yes – there has been a lot of head scratching!!!

The FLO position in Essex is vacant at the moment. (Good luck Ben Paites in the new job from everyone at BDMDC). The new FLO is expected to come out to the club post Christmas.

To wind up, when I showed the find to the farmer he said ‘Get thee back to Wales dragon’ and a friend at the club said it could actually be Nessie. I am keeping an open mind as every man and his dog has walked across Essex at one time or another.

Thank you everyone who has assisted with the identification process so far. Can anyone out there give a definite ID.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Noreen Linale