5.2.4 Battlefield material as 'background noise'

Battle-related artefacts may spark the imagination with their potentially gruesome history, but for others they may be regarded as a 'nuisance' if occurring in large numbers. For example, a metal detectorist interviewed over the telephone in May 2009 on the results of searching in the vicinity of Denbigh Castle, besieged in 1646, declared that, 'coming home with a bucket full of musket balls was a day wasted'. Another metal detectorist complains on an online forum that one field he regularly searches on has 'produced 1000s of mussie balls and I do mean thousands … cheesed off with them'. Both have ignored the possibility that finding large volumes of musket balls may be significant; clearly the focus was to search for artefacts with greater 'intrinsic value', which in this case was medieval objects, a problem shared with other sites of conflict that form part of multi-period sites. The Battle of Philiphaugh, for example, shares the landscape with an Early Historic settlement and a possible Roman site, which together form a 'honey trap' for metal detectorists. The battle-related material therefore becomes 'background noise', or hedge-fodder as I have often heard musket balls referred to because they are not considered worth keeping after a day's metal detecting. This was certainly a contributing factor to the significant erosion of the battlefield archaeology at Philiphaugh.


Internet Archaeology is an open access journal. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.

University of York legal statements

File last updated: Thu Feb 28 2013