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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.


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