Saturday, July 15, 2017

7/15/17 Report - Trade Silver Artifact and Difficulty of Identifying Items. No New Storms.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Detectorist Working North of Sebastian Inlet.
Photo submitted by Darrel S.

Thanks for the photo Darrel.


MACKINAW CITY, MI - Excavators at Colonial Michilimackinac uncovered a 250-year-old piece of trade silver earlier this week; their second big find this summer. 
According to Dr. Lynn Evans, curator of archaeology at Mackinac State Historic Parks, the triangle-shaped artifact has a small hole in it, which means it was likely part of an earring or pendent worn around 1765...
Source: See link below.

This might make you think of the posts I did on Seminole and Calusa silver artifacts.  This item wouldn't be associated with either of those groups, but it is said to be trade silver.  It seems to me this item could easily be misinterpreted.  It is a simple geometric shape and could be used in a variety of ways. It could even be a left over scrap or part of something that had no particular function at the time it was lost.

After reading most of the article, I did something I don't usually do:  I read some of the comments.  I don't know what happens to people when they are sitting at a keyboard and faced with the opportunity to type something, but in a lot of cases it isn't pretty. It makes you wonder about the state of our civilization and hope for the future.  I think you know what I'm talking about.  I can't even describe it.

Anyhow, there were a few comments that I thought were illustrative or otherwise interesting. Someone commented that it could be part of a fishing lure.  You might not think so if it is really silver.  On the other hand, I can imagine circumstances when a person might use a random piece of shiny silver for something like that even if it was previously or subsequently used in other ways.  We might go to the store or order the precise part that was designed for a very specific purpose, but people in the past, and some of the more handy and creative people of today, might save any miscellaneous piece of material and use it in any multitude of ways.  If you wanted to be creative and think of all the ways this piece could be used, I'm sure you could come up with at least a few.

I always remember one item that was dug up during an archaeological excavation of what was described as a slave quarters and the item an archaeologist said was one thing ( I think they said it was a tobacco pipe ) turned out to be one of those small toys from a box of Cracker Jacks.

It can be difficult to interpret finds - even when they are found in context.  It is easy to be wrong.

Lets say there is a range of possible uses for an artifact.  For example, a triangular piece of metal, like the one shown above, could be used as a pendant, or it might be used to attract fish, or it might be used as a screw driver, or to scour a line in wood or cut leather, or if shined up to reflect light, to signal someone on a distant hill.   I think you get my point.

There is a range of possibilities. To any interpreter, some of those possibilities would seem more likely than others.  If you assigned probabilities to each of the possibilities, you might say something like you feel that there is a 75% chance that it is a pendant, for example, and maybe a 2% chance that it was used to reflect light and send signals.  In general you might expect a bell shaped curve something like the following.

The vertical axis would represent the probability that an item is a certain thing.  There might be a relatively high probability that the item is a pendant.  Items like that would fall at about the center of the curve above.   But there are other possibilities, some of which might be considered to be much less likely.  They would be either far left or right on the curve.   (Maybe the curve should be cut in half.)

I am just thinking at the keyboard, so I apologize for the lack of refinement and poor explanation.

It must be something like medicine.  You go to the doctor and present symptoms X, Y and Z, so the easy diagnosis is something common, like the flu, yet symptoms X, Y and Z might also indicate something very rare.  The tendency would be to over-diagnose the most likely illness and under-diagnose rare diseases.

Undoubtedly archaeologists and treasure hunters tend to identify finds according to what seems most likely or probable.  That makes sense, but in the process some interpretations are overlooked or too quickly dismissed.  That would result in a narrowing and heightening of the curve.

I hope you get what I am saying, and I apologize for trying to put it out there before I thought it out more completely.

There were other comments to the article that were interesting.  A couple people said something like that they were out at the dig site last week and dropped the item.  One person jokingly said that, and then said they would appreciate having the lost item returned.

While those people might have been joking, they make an important point.  Sites can always be contaminated.  And odd things can be found where you'd never expect to find them.  Some kid might take a thousand year old fossil or hundred year old coin from dad's collection and drop it in the school yard.  Just because an item is old doesn't mean it was lost a long time ago.

Another point is that there are people who will try to claim things they did not lose.  It happens.  I've seen people try to claim a diamond ring or gold chain they did not lose.  I've talked about that before, and you have to be careful.   Don't provide a full description until you know you have the real owner.  Ask them for the inscription inside the ring or something to prove ownership.  That is one reason the picture that I posted of the lady wearing the lost cross pendant was important.  It helped prove ownership.

Here is the link to the original article.

Click here to go  to "trade silver" article.

Sorry this topic wasn't better developed.  I'll undoubtedly have to spend some more time on the subject and probably have to clean up this post later.


There is no tropical weather of concern right now.

The surf will be two to three feet on the Treasure Coast this weekend.  Otherwise, beach detecting conditions remain unchanged.

Happy hunting,