Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Small Bells Found bell while metal detecting.

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    • #12457

      Hey all, I am new here. I found a bell while I was metal detecting and it has really intrigued me. I live in an area of the country that is quite old, there were people here in the 1660’s and Native Americans here for a long time before that.

      I am not sure why this bell has fascinated me so much, but it has. Probably because it is still ringing and was found next to a river that has had constant habitation for the last 500 years.

      I found it about 6 inches down. Any idea on age? It is about an inch in diameter.

    • #17848

      Welcome to our site!

      You appear to have a very early form of the Crotal harness bell.

      If you go to the search window (above right) search for “Crotal Bell Factoid sheet”. I put together some reference information a while ago and posted it here for folks like yourself.

      The shaft was pinned with a cotter pin after being inserted through a slot in the leather harness. It’s off center showing it was drilled (rather than cast) in. It has a single throat (sound slit) with rounded ends (rounded to reduce cracking from stress) . It has no raised center ring so it is likely a soldered rather than crimped piece. You don’t mention the metal type or the ball in the center type, which would help in the identification. The holes in the top half are from construction (it’s a molded bell) and there is also an article on this site of how they are made.

      Being found next to a river is common, as people followed rivers and lived beside them – they were the highways of the time. (If you found it on a high ridge or hilltop road, it would be more indicative of military usage as they want the high ground for scouting etc. Depending on the river and where it was found the 6″ down may or may not be helpful. Many rivers ‘wander’ and flood so the bell may have been covered/uncovered by the water / river silt numerous times. The condition of the bell tends to support this as the fine silt seems to reduce corrosion/degradation. (I suspect that’s because it reduces the exposure to oxygen.)

      Also there were variations in different countries / areas of countries so you location is important.

      But from the design construction that I can see and the information you supplied. I would guesstimate it’s from the early 1800’s. All in all, a very nice find!

      Hope that helps!

    • #17849

      Hey, thanks a bunch for the information.

      I don’t know what the the little ringer thing is made out of, but from the sound of it it is something soft.

      I live in Sault Sainte Marie Michigan right on the US/Canadian border. I believe it is made of copper but I could be wrong. It has a similar patina to other copper items that have been dug in and around this location.

      Once again, thanks a ton for the info. I appreciate it. Hope I can find some more.

    • #17850

      You are welcome!

      Copper isn’t my first thought though – too soft a metal and would be damaged by the animals wearing it. What color / composition of the soil was it found in? (I am thinking it could also be stained by iron in the soil for example.)

      Try holding a rare earth magnet to it. Does the little ball stick? Does the side of the bell stick?
      if strong = iron. if weaker = tin most likely..

      Many of the little balls were actually pebbles (aka rocks/stones), or Iron, or pewter, or left over bits from the foundry. softness of the sound may be due to material caked inside the bell.

      I’d suggest you have corroded Iron, tin, or brass as the most likely candidates for the bell material.

    • #17851

      I am going to back peddle just a bit on my last thoughts.

      I just got the Nov/Dec 2014 Bell Tower, (the official Publication of the “American Bell Association” which has an article on page 9 thru 11 on Ancient Bells of US Southwest. It’s a great read, and shows Crotial bells from 800 AD to about 1500 AD. Max Kurillo points out that bells of this era were cataloged as “Copper Bell Typology” where they were of copper and copper alloys. They were for the ‘elite’ apparently so were mostly decorative.

      So copper Crotial bells do exist, I just haven’t seen any myself, probably because I don’t collect antiquities or most souvenir bells. What copper items I have seen, were very prone to damage due to the softness of the metal. They were mostly inexpensive bell shaped souvenir type bells, none were Crotial. Recovered hollow copper items, even smaller ones, that I have seen were typically flattened or squashed when recovered from the earth. I suspect that an alloy type copper bell (with Tin or some other metal) would be stronger though.

      So your bell could indeed be a copper or copper alloy crotial. Perhaps Max or someone with more knowledge of these bells will comment if they know of others.

      Of course now that I know those bells exist, I’ll have to find some! 😛
      I do enjoy the hunt!


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