Many years ago, a political lobbyist pitched a software idea to my software development firm. He wanted to create special glasses that allowed visitors to a battlefield park to “see” the battle in action – the soldiers, smoke , and all the bloody action. This was years before “augmented reality” and technology such as Google Glass existed that would make the realization of this idea even a possibility. At the time, we determined the idea was unfeasible and I forgot about it until this past weekend.
About 18 months ago when I began seriously detecting Nashville, Tennessee I was always lost. Not being a native of Nashville, I didn’t understand the layout of the city, where historical landmarks were, or much of anything else that might be useful for detecting. I had 30 years of detecting experience, but was a real greenhorn in Nashville.
Fast forward to this past weekend. I was driving through one of my favorite neighborhoods to detect when it dawned on me that I could “see” things that were not there. As I was driving, instead of the homes and streets, I could see long-gone houses and structures, roads and rails and fields that had been there in the past. The occasional lone surviving big old tree, topographical feature, creeks and old home served as the only present-day clues integrated into what I could see. It was like I was driving through a life-size 3D overlay of a present day map, a 1908 map, and a Civil War map. The old plantation house on my right is long gone and is now replaced by several houses, but I know it was there and I acknowledge it, “See” it, every time I pass.
I knew all of this from the vast research I’ve done on the area over the past 18 months, and from the help of long-time residents and experienced detecting buddies.
In addition, in my mind’s eye, I could see soldiers – fighting, laying down at camp and in rifle pits. Dying. I could see college students laying out on the lawn of a school building that wasn’t there. People riding a trolley that has little or no remaining traces of its existence.
I knew these things from the things I had found in these yards. Together, the finds pieced together a comprehensive story. Relics I had found created a pattern through yards that showed the flow of the battle, where they had slept, and where the heavy action and critical events took place.
This is the first time I acknowledged that I really felt like I could see all this as I drove along, and I laughed out loud, and it reminded me of my lobbyist friend and his battlefield glasses idea. I call this historic, metal detecting, second sight TreasureVision.
Why is TreasureVision Important
TreasureVision allows me to greatly increase my odds of finding great stuff by helping me to select premium sites associated with historical landmarks and events that are not readily apparent to the naked eye.
TreasureVision also allows me to appreciate and enjoy my finds more because they have a historical context. For example, I often know the specific battle and action many of the relics I find come from. Often I even know what specific day they were most likely dropped, fired or otherwise ended up in the ground. Sometimes I know which US States and specific units the relics came from, and sometimes I know the names of specific soldiers and leaders that fought on the ground where I recovered certain relics.
TreasureVision also allows strengthens my permission skills because property owners often love to discuss the history of their property, learn things about it they didn’t know, and share their own knowledge. Last year, for example, I detected an old farmhouse that was rumored to have been a prohibition era juke joint. This seemed unlikely until the property owner and I counted up and researched the many 1920s-1930s era whiskey bottle caps I dug!
How to Develop TreasureVision
TreasureVision is built by a combination of heavy research and detecting around a specific area. Here are some specific ways to develop yours:
Detect with People Who Know
Teaming up with experienced historians and detectorist in the area was a tremendous shortcut for me to develop my own TreasureVision. I was fortunate enough to meet and hunt with some incredible detectorists by joining the Middle Tennessee Metal Detecting Club. These people knew exactly where many houses and structures that stood during the Civil War actually stood, as well as other historical and useful information. I am indebted to each of them for helping me get my feet under me and identify many basic key landmarks to get my bearings with.
Many Property Owners, especially the older ones, can provide invaluable information as well and also help verify and pinpoint specific landmarks and structures that no longer exist. “There is an old spring in my backyard.” “We’ve always heard the soldiers camped near the creek.” “My grandfather said the old school was right over there.” “There was an old foundation next door.”
Research allows me to verify what I have been told by others, and to identify new details to add to my TreasureVision. Maps, historical books, official military records, and geneology resources such as Ancestry.com are just a few of the major resources available to analyze.
Diaries are the most valuable resource by far for researching and pinpointing locations of camps, houses and other landmarks that were there during a given war because many details are provided that are not provided anywhere else. “We camped near a church and creek 4 miles from Franklin.” “We reached the Washington Pike by dark and continued to the hills to the South in the morning.”
Overlaying historical maps onto current satellite images and maps is the best way to pinpoint where specific structures and landmarks were located. This can be done by hand or on the computer. I prefer to overlay digital maps using Google Earth on my computer. This process can be very tedious, but also very rewarding as you find new places to detect and verify their existence on-site with your detector.
Remember that in general the older the map is, the less accurate. So it is best to overlay a series of maps together to get a better picture of where a target structure, for example, was located.
Use Your Imagination
Don’t be afraid to use your imagination to fill in the blanks and imagine, looking at the landscape in person, where the structure, camp, or other place you are looking for might have stood. Look for higher, flat elevations where a home might have stood. Look for old trees that are still standing or other clues. Let your imagination fill in the blanks subject to revision by new information as your research continues.
Detect Places That Are Not There
You are researching to find places to detect, so get out there and detect that places you suspect the target camp, house, school, church, picnic ground or other target used to be. “The Relics Never Lie” and the ground almost always holds clear clues such as nail beds where old structures were, old iron and specific artifacts that will verify the location. And if you don’t find any evidence, regroup and identify alternate locations that are probably nearby, and detect these as well.
I’ve found that developing “TreasureVision” of any new target area I want to detect is a critical component to successful detecting. Being able to “see” a particular neighborhood or other area the way it was in the past is the best way to identify the most premium sites with the best finds.
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West Midlands Police