A Leaden Kind of Blog or ‘A Crap Post’

A Lump of Lead

A chunk of unidentified lead hidden in a tin for almost 20 years turned out to be a very interesting find for a Kent detectorist. He found the item in a small orchard in the mid 1990’s, long before the internet with detecting forums and Faceache made identification of items easy. Books on Roman coins were researched at the time but nothing could be found relating to the find.

After registering the find (somewhat late!) with the FLO, the old piece of lead was taken to London to be viewed by Dr. Sam Moorhead, National Finds Adviser, Ancient Coins at the British Museum. He recorded it as a “find of note” and was designated for inclusion in the British Numismatic Journal, ‘Coin Register.’

The detectorist was surprised when his ‘piece of lead’ was a possible trial piece of the reverse die of a silver medallion of Valens (AD 364-78). How it came to be in a small field in Kent is a mystery, as the mintmark is from Trier, in Germany.

A Roman lead, possible, trial piece, using the reverse die of a silver medallion of Valens (AD 364-78), dating to AD 367-75. ‘A FIND of NOTE’. KENT-7F3206. © PAS

Lead Seal

The lead seal probably features amongst the commoner of artefacts found by detectorists when searching farmland.

 A relatively modern lead bag seal c.1914-1937 courtesy of the PAS. Obverse: A cornucopia with three pellets on the left. “TRADE” Reverse: “ANGLO CONTINENTAL // HLENDORF // LONDON”. The Anglo-Continental Guano Works had been founded in 1873, and remained a German company until the First World War, when it was reconstituted under British control. It was taken over in 1937 and closed in 1946. Notice the trademark of the cornucopia (horn of plenty) in this example.

The subject has appeared many times in detecting magazines throughout the years but the one I remember in particular was published 26 years ago. Mick Cuddeford discussed lead seals and in particular those from bags of guano.

Advertising Sign for the Guano Works

What emerged was a fascinating story about bird droppings from South America, and how bag seals can be so interesting for the detectorist who wasn’t in the ‘gold stater league’. Here’s an extract:

From pre-historic times, the contents of farm middens had been used as a convenient source of soil enrichment … some forms of refuse and manure had unproductive side effects on certain crops however, and from medieval times it had been realised that nitrate-rich bird droppings were a valuable source of fertiliser. It was common then for the gentry to keep dove cotes as a source of meat … and the droppings were regarded as prime material for spreading on the land.

Mick CudDeford

Coo, I reckon you’d need a lot of pigeons!

What Exactly is Guano?

Off the coast of Peru there are islands that have been the roost of vast colonies of seabirds for centuries. This has created to a build-up of droppings, or guano, many feet thick, and towards the end of the 19th century this was mined as a commercial export for fertiliser.

Guano is the accumulated excrement of seabirds and bats. As a manure, guano is a highly effective fertiliser due to its exceptionally high content of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium: key nutrients essential for plant growth. Guano was also, to a lesser extent, sought for the production of gunpowder and other explosive materials.

What emerged was a fascinating story about bird droppings from South America, and how bag seals can be so interesting for the detectorist who wasn’t in the ‘gold stater league’. Research like this into one of the more common finds proves just how much you can learn from the hobby. Here’s an extract

The best examples of bag seals are to be found at Bagseals.org. Stuart Elton has been collecting seals – donated by detectorists – and the best were included in a book, which I reviewed in the July 2017 edition of the Searcher magazine.

Be Aware

Lead corrosion forms a white crust on the surface of the object. Another good indication that the object is made of lead will appear to be much heaver than you would expect from just looking at it. Remember that lead oxide is poisonous and care should be taken when handling corroded lead objects, to ensure that none of it is ingested. Be safe.

10 thoughts on “A Leaden Kind of Blog or ‘A Crap Post’

  1. And on this side of the pond, we are quite excited when we uncover a bag seal, John..

    And apparently, bat guano is exceptional when it comes to fertilizing ground.. In fact one of the Pacific island

    kingdoms is so rich in guano from seabirds, its’ whole economy revolves around the mining/harvesting of it

    Thank you for the story; especially for us ‘non-stater’ folks


    Liked by 1 person

  2. All interesting stuff John, keep at it. I bet the Guano stinks but it sure was a very nutrient fertiliser. I know what effect pigeon muck had on my vegetable patch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John you are not wasting your time, it is always a pleasure to read your thoughts, on such a diverse range of topics. Keep up the good work

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder if that’s why Venice is sinking John……..have you seen all the pigeons in Piazza San Marco?? LOL….


Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.