Atascosa County Historical Commission adds resident metal detectorist

David Emery is pictured with his metal detector. DAVID EMERY | COURTESY PHOTOS

David Emery is pictured with his metal detector. DAVID EMERY | COURTESY PHOTOS

The Atascosa County Historical Commission recently added David Emery as a member of the Commission and recognized him as their resident metal detectorist. He will work with the commission to locate historic sites around Atascosa County and then detect for artifacts.

Emery has been using metal detectors since 1983, when he was stationed in Europe with the United States Airforce. During his service in Europe, he lived in Greece, Germany and Belgium. While observing local laws, Emery was able to detect on public lands and locate artifacts from recently dropped items to some dating back over 2,400 years. Most of the artifacts he found he kept, but some were turned over to local archaeologists for preservation and display.

Emery’s detecting finds collection includes three Celtic silver coins from before the time of Christ, over 200 Roman coins, a Roman ring which dates to the first century, and various coins and artifacts from Roman times up to modern times. His most amazing and historic find was a bronze Celtic burial bucket which Belgian archaeologists dated to around 300-400 B.C.

Shown are three Celtic burial urns from about 300-400 B.C. The one on the right along with all the small objects were found by David Emery in Belgium in 1986. DAVID EMERY | COURTESY PHOTOS

Shown are three Celtic burial urns from about 300-400 B.C. The one on the right along with all the small objects were found by David Emery in Belgium in 1986. DAVID EMERY | COURTESY PHOTOS

In 1986 Emery was stationed in northern Belgium. A friend asked him to help detect an area that had been excavated by archaeologist from the Belgium National Museum. As the area was on public land, they were given permission to detect the area after archaeologists closed the dig. At that time, the Belgian archaeologists were not using metal detectors. On his first visit to the site, Emery found coins from the Roman emperors Vespasian, Titus and Trajan. He also found an iron ring which contained a carved carnelian with the image of the Roman goddess Minerva, who is often associated with the Greek goddess Athena. Emery had the stone reset into an 18-carat gold ring for his personal use.

On his second day detecting the site, Emery got a very strong but deep signal. After digging over two feet into the sandy soil he located a bronze Celtic burial urn from between the second and third centuries before Christ. The bottom third of the urn still contained bones and ashes from the original burial. Archaeologists were able to determine that the ashes included both human and horse bone fragments. Twenty-one items made of bronze were buried around the outside of the urn. A lump of rusted metal located in the hole turned out to be the iron bit for a horse’s mouth. The archaeologists believe the burial was that of a local tribal chief or one of his relatives. Clearly, his horse had been killed and cremated with him.

Pictured above is a Roman ring from the 1st century A.D. The original ring was iron. Emery had the stone, with a carving of the Roman goddess Minerva, set into a new gold ring.

Pictured above is a Roman ring from the 1st century A.D. The original ring was iron. Emery had the stone, with a carving of the Roman goddess Minerva, set into a new gold ring.

The head of ancient burials for the northern part of Belgium told Emery that the find was significant as no other Celtic burials from this time had ever been found in that part of the country. Although he was told that the urn and artifacts were his to keep, Emery donated them to the National Museum of Belgium. The collection of artifacts is on permanent display in the Gallo-Roman Museum in Tongeren, the oldest city in Belgium. Following Emery’s discovery, archaeologists found two other ancient Celtic burial urns in the area.

A large gold university class ring recently recovered for a for a friend who had lost it while hunting.

A large gold university class ring recently recovered for a for a friend who had lost it while hunting.

Now, Emery will use the metal detecting skill he gained over the years to help unearth the history of Atascosa County. Emery said, “We know of some areas in the county that were small communities over a hundred years ago but are now nothing but fields and pastures. After gaining permission from the owners, we will detect the areas to search for artifacts. The things we find will be offered to the owners who may then chose to place them on display at the Atascosa County Historical Commission building in Leming. “

Emery encourages residents to contact him if they believe their property might have historic possibilities. He also offers his detecting services to help people find jewelry or other metal valuables they have recently lost.

“I don’t charge for this service,” Emery said. “I ask that property owners give me a general idea where they might have lost the item. In exchange for my efforts, I ask for permission to detect the rest of their property.”

A gold-plated pocket watch cover from the late 1800s recently found in Medina County.

A gold-plated pocket watch cover from the late 1800s recently found in Medina County.

Emery, who goes by “Detecting Dave” can be reached at 830-276-0403.

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