Tuesday, August 11, 2015

8/11/15 Report - Revolutionary War Artifacts Found And Lost. Three Good Lessons. Reasons Watches Aren't Found.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of treasurebeacheserport.blogspot.com.

Item Found on Caribbean Island.

Do you know what this item is?   Would you recognize it coming out of the ground all rusted in poor condition? 

I know that many of you know what it is. Some twenty or thirty years ago I didn't.

I was hunting the side of a very steep cliff on a Caribbean Island just below where there once was a Revolutionary War cannon emplacement .  I was finding buttons and things and was a little excited.  Those were my first Revolutionary War era artifacts.  Before that I primarily hunted South Florida and found mostly modern stuff.

The cliff where I was hunting was very steep.  It was hard to stay on it.   I was using a short piece of wood as my rod.  It was only about as long as a detector stem as it would be used when you are diving - not like when you are normally hunting dry ground.  Because the hill was so steep, the ground and coil was more out in front of me than down at foot level when I detected.

I was using an old Royal Sabre detector.  I didn't take the rod and assembly on the trip at all - just the box and coil and a short piece of wood about a foot long to use as the rod.  I took it in a backpack and assembled it on site.

One thing I remember about that hunt that I thought was funny was the crabs on the hillside.  There were a lot of them there for some reason.  But the funny thing was when I would approach them they would pull their legs into their shell, which would result in them rolling a hundred or more feet down the hill and into the water below.  I suspect that they would then march back up the hill.

I dug a few buttons and things, then I dug up a rusted twisted piece of iron very much like the one shown above, but not in such good condition.  It was also covered with mud, as if that would excuse my ignorance.  

Gun Flint.

If you don't know what it is yet, it is an iron gun cock from an old musket.  

The one shown above is not the one I found.  I regret to this day that I didn't take it home.  I bet there is a good chance that I could still go there today and find it.

To make matters worse, I also found a flint that looked very much like the one shown here.  It was a nicely shaped rectangular one very much like the one shown.

I remember it very well yet today.

On the NFL Hall of Fame program last weekend Marshall Faulk was talking to Jim Brown and someone asked what experiences stood out in their Hall of Fame careers, and Marshall said he most remembered when he messed up.  They went on to say that is the sign of greatness.

I regret not quickly identifying those items more quickly when I was on that hillside.  I think it actually clicked for me before I left, but because the one item was so rusty and they weren't what I was looking for at the time, I ended up leaving them for some reason.  Maybe I was just eager to get on with it.

I also left grapeshot, but that was intentional.  I was not going to take any chance of being caught taking explosives onto the plane.

I tell this experience to make a few points.  1.  Don't repeat the same mistakes over and over.  Take the opportunity to learn something from them.  2.  Read all you can and become aware of different types of things so you can quickly identify them in the field.  And 3., don't discard items until you are sure that you know what they are or that you definitely don't want them.

Those are three good lessons that I learned.

NOTE:  The two pictures above can be found in the book An Introduction Guide to Recovered Colonial and Revolutionary War Artifacts by Timothy J. McGuire.


According to Odyssey Marine Explorations second quarter report, The team aboard the Odyssey Explorer vessel completed search and preliminary inspection operations on the "Olympus" Project, which includes a cluster of five 20th-century shipwrecks believed to be carrying significant cargoes of gold and silver at the time of their sinking in the northern Atlantic. All shipwrecks were located by Odyssey and varying degrees of reconnaissance work was conducted in order to collect data on each wreck. This included multibeam surveys, sub-bottom imaging and visual inspections using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The information gathered during this expedition is now being analyzed to determine the financial and technical feasibility of recovery operations on one or more of the shipwrecks in the "Olympus" Project area. Preliminary work to prepare for recovery operations on at least one of the targeted shipwrecks can be performed from the Odyssey Explorer.


It is sometimes difficult to date a site from an artifact.  One thing that makes it even more difficult is that items were repaired and used for a long time.  It has been found that many Revolutionary War muskets dated back to the 1600s.  They were simply refitted and repaired and reused.  

Despite what you might see in museums, most people didn't have all the newest stuff.  Things were made to last longer, and they didn't throw useful things away just because they didn't look like new.

Old documents and pictures in many cases provide a better estimate of life in the past.  An artifact out of context creates more questions than it answers.   Beach and water recoveries are seldom in a context that answers many questions.  They are in a context, but it is a context determined by the density and shape of the object and the force of water that acts upon them over time rather than a context that tells you how and where they were used. 

One book I recently read talks about such things.  It is A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America by Ivor Noel Hume.  It is a little dated itself, having been originally published in 1969.  It is worth reading though.

Mr. Hume presents a some interesting inventories.  One was an inventory of a blacksmith shop.  Another was a household inventory.  Both inventories included a lot of old items.  The blacksmith was upgrading old muskets and the household, as you would expect, had some very old items that were still being used.

Wills often give a good picture of life in the past.  I've read one of my ancestor's wills from the 1700s.  Included were things like a couple of sheep and other goods that were passed down.


I posted a picture of a found watch the other day.  I find a lot of watches, and often they are good watches.  I believe that a lot of detectorists miss good watches because of discrimination or target ID.


No significant change in Treasure Coast beach detecting conditions to report yet.

Happy hunting,