Introduction Raw Iron Production (1/8)
Most searchers know the feeling to be attracted to a certain patch of land though nothing of interest is known about this place. Countless times I drove by an old forest on high ground north of a valley. The idea to have a castle up there and controlling the valley while looking to the sunny south appealed to me and I hoped it attracted others centuries ago. The forest consisted of old, tall spruce trees so there was plenty of room between the trees and no undergrowth to fight with. Some day I decided to search this forest.
A nice find was made while hiking through the woods to get to the search area. A lonely, old stone cross.
These crosses originated from the 1400-1700 period. They do not mark graves but places of incidents important to the person who erected them. There are two main categories of these crosses.
Cross category number one are the so called expiation crosses which were part of late medieval (ca. 1300-1400) justice. If someone of high social rank killed someone of low social rank, e.g. when a local lord killed one of his peasants, he was obliged to erect such a cross at the crime scene. So the punishment was basically of financial and social nature as all locals would remember what happened there as long as the stone stood.
Today it is usually forgotten who did what to whom. As far as I know the criminal was not obliged to have his name and the name of his victim be chiseled into the stone. Even the last important information, the place, is often lost in our times. While people in former centuries usually did not move these stones today people are less scrupulous. If these crosses are in the way of farming or road construction they are removed and placed near the next big road for people to see. I am not sure the found cross stands at its original position. Exactly because of this these stones are not as brilliant treasure hiding places as one would assume. Nevertheless, their immediate vicinity is always worth a detector check as, due to the small area, this can be done very quickly. I checked three of them and only found a rotten folding knife, maximum age 100 years.
Cross category number two had a positive background. When individuals or communities were in great danger they often swore to God to do something for him when he manages to get them out alive. For example, this can be a traveller robbed in the dark forest fearing for his live. When he survived he erected a cross at this place. Survived dangers often caused people to re-evaluate their lifes and change priorities. Therefore the cross, besides being a public monument, had a very special personal meaning for the donator as long as he lived.
Other survived dangers causing people to erect such a stone were severe illnesses like the plague or wars, though it was more common for a village to promise God to do regular, annual processions if their village is not harmed too badly. It was called to make the village a fiancee of God. This habit was alive into the Napoleonic wars some 400 years after the late middle ages. Even today there are regular religious processions that originated in Napoleon’s wars .When researching a Napoleon battlefield I visited rural areas where people seriously attributed the survival of their village to this bond with God sworn 200 years ago. And they complained that the younger people often refuse to participate in this procession.
The last modern remnants of the wish to set a public token are the wooden crosses besides German roads that hint to fatal traffic accidents.
Unfortunately, these crosses are exposed to erosion and sometimes taken by collectors. Once I searched for hours for a stone marked on the official topographic maps but in vain. Later I read in local history literature that others also searched in vain. Probably this stone had been taken. In my archive some 20 of such stones are listed in an area of 50 km diameter.
As these stones have a nice historical aura they are used in esoteric books on Celts as cover pictures. Historically, this is nonsense since the Celts had vanished from history 1400 years before the stone crosses appeared on the scene.
This picture was made in 2004. On the top a cross is visible. On the right side a “P” is legible.
The same cross pictured two years later. It is more difficult to decipher the inscriptions. I hope this is due to lighting rather than erosion.
So much to the cross. Now back to metal detecting. Finally I arrived at the search area overlooking the valley below. In spite of the nice view I found absolutely nothing of interest except an 1 Euro coin that was heavily corroded though the Euro had been introduced just one or two years earlier. I concluded that my searcher’s sixth sense needed improvement and forgot about this area.
(C) Thorsten Straub www.metal-detecting.de 2006-2011.