Treasure hunting with a metal detector is where you search for historical artefacts buried under the ground. These could be coins, jewellery, or even Roman helmets. It can be extremely rewarding, not only financially but just for the pure joy of discovering a bit of history.
If you are considering treasure hunting with a metal detector, you will need to think about:
· Choosing from the different types of metal detectors available
· Where to detect
· Researching potential sites for historical information about previous use
· Gaining search permission
· Search techniques & methods
· Identifying, recording, cleaning, storing & displaying finds
Finding artefacts from history used to be just for archaeologists, but with the advent of the metal detector, hobbyists became able to discover a vast array of treasure hoards. Enthusiasm for metal detecting grew and soon you would be familiar with seeing people walking up and down the beach swinging their metal detectors in search of lost
You don’t have to live near the coast to go treasure hunting. In Europe, there are millions of acres of farmland that have still to be explored for buried treasure. Museums have an increasing amount of treasures on display that have been discovered by hobbyists.
Choosing Between the Different Types of Metal Detectors
There are a huge number of different metal detectors available. You will need to balance how much you are willing to spend with how complicated a metal detector you are able to use. Also, if you are new to treasure hunting, you might not want to spend a lot of money if you aren’t sure if you will spend much time doing it.
Most treasure hunters start out with either a cheap basic model, or one costing little more than a couple of hundred dollars.
Check the specification of the metal detector for the depth that it will detect at, and what size of object. Also, what materials it will detect. Another consideration is that of weight and balance. Some detectors are light enough for long hours of use by youngsters or by the infirm/elderly; others are heavy and are best suited for fit adults.
It can’t be stressed enough that the need for a good quality digging tool is essential in this hobby. Whether you opt for a simple trowel or a foot-assisted spade, you would be well advised to buy the strongest that you can afford. A cheap tinny trowel may be ideal for garden use but it won t last five minutes in the field. This is particularly important if you intend to detect in an area where the soil is of the heavy clay type.
You will also want to take a bag or pouch with you to put your treasure in. You don’t want to put a precious find straight into your pocket along with all the other things that you have dug up.
Where to go Treasure Hunting With a Metal Detector
The first place you will obviously try is your own garden, if only to see how your detector works. If you live in a fairly modern house, you need to bear in mind that it was once a building site and you will, without a doubt, find a plethora of associated junk. By this I mean such things as nails, rusty metal, silver paper and cigarette cartons.
If you live in an older house, or know somebody who does and is willing to let you search their garden, you stand a reasonably good chance of making some interesting finds. Many people have lost rings or other items of jewellery in their own gardens.
If no restrictions on the use of metal detectors exist (check the local bye-laws) then parks and commons can offer a good chance of making some interesting finds. The age of the park, or common, will reflect the type of finds you can expect to make. Don t be put off by parkland that is surrounded by modern development; always remember that it was probably farmland at one time.
If there are any very old trees in the park then search around them; people will have sat or even picnicked under them at some time in the past.
Commons are usually very old; many of them were used hundreds of years ago by villagers to graze livestock. In the past some spectacular finds have been made on them. It is always wise to check the by-laws before attempting to detect on commons.
Ploughed fields generally offer the greatest prospects for making good finds and are the most favoured sites for any detectorist. This is mainly because they are continuously being turned over, bringing new finds to the surface. The only drawback to these sites is the damage caused to many finds by farm machinery and long-term exposure to agro-chemicals. This doesn t mean that you won t find anything in good condition, however. As an example take the Roman brooch in Fig.3.4., which was found on plough-soil and is in remarkably good condition.
Generally, any fields close to an ancient settlement will probably yield finds associated with it. Detecting near any Roman sites, for example, will almost certainly yield things such as Roman coins, brooches, tools and other implements.
Detecting on footpaths and in woodland is one way of keeping yourself active during the dormant season (by that we mean during the summer months when ploughed fields are inaccessible due to crop growth). Footpaths, particularly well-used ones, will undoubtedly yield coins and other objects lost by ramblers. Larger trackways and footpaths, which date back centuries, could yield more interesting finds.
Stiles also present good opportunities for finds as many ramblers will have had to struggle over them, losing coins and other objects in the process.
Rivers have been the focus of activity throughout history, either as a means of transport or navigation, or simply as a convenient water supply. Large rivers, such as the Thames, have seen so much activity over the past three or four thousand years that it would be impossible to estimate what treasures lay hidden in their silt.
The Thames itself has yielded vast amounts of finds over recent decades, and most of those simply from the mud on its banks! These treasures include coins, jewellery, weapons, bottles and vases, and even a fabulous prehistoric bronze shield from the Iron Age, which is now in the British Museum.
Detecting on the River Thames does require a permit, which has to be acquired from the Port of London Authority.
If you are fortunate enough to live near the coast you will almost certainly want to try out your detector on the beaches. Not only are they available to detect on all year round, but they can also be very fruitful in finds, particularly if you follow a few basic tips.
Most of the jewellery losses made on beaches occur when people go swimming in the sea – their fingers contract, due to the cold temperatures, making rings very loose and liable to slip off.
Bathers also tend to lose necklaces when they do the breaststroke. Forgetting that they are wearing them, they push their arms forward and outward – breaking the chains in the process.
The tip here is that the best time to detect on a beach is when the tide is out. Start at the water s edge then work backwards and forwards as the tide returns. Tide charts are available in many seaside resorts and are well worth obtaining.
There is no best time of the year for beach detecting, although winter storms can churn up beaches well enough to reveal long-lost jewellery and coins.
Gaining Permission to Search
When making an approach to a landowner, we have found it best to be casually but well dressed, and make our visit at an appropriate time (eg not during Sunday lunch, or at a very busy time of year such as the harvest).
Some landowners will say No! and may be rather offhand; you must be prepared for this. Should you receive an abrupt negative, simply say something along the lines of Oh well that’s a shame, but thank you for your time anyway . Never argue the point, even though it may be very frustrating; always be courteous. You can depart by offering to leave your telephone number should they have a change of mind or circumstances for refusal change.
At all times try to put forward the advantages of having a detectorist operating on the land, and show a passion for your hobby. We have found many landowners are fascinated by the history of the land they farm. Concerning any finds that we make, we normally operate a policy of giving the landowner first choice of anything we uncover. We
show the person concerned all of our finds, including shotgun caps, lead dross etc. In the case of a really valuable find we normally
abide by a 50:50 share with the landowner.
It is a good idea to discuss and establish a finds sharing agreement at the earliest opportunity with a written and signed contract.
There have recently been a number of serious fallings out and legal disputes where these agreements have been neglected. We are fortunate in having many sites to search, and a number of very good friendships have developed between us and the landowners concerned.
It is important to maintain these good relationships. As a thank you, The Pastfinders present many landowners with a bottle of whisky or red wine at Christmas along with a card. Without the co-operation of landowners our hobby would not be able to exist in its present form.
You can find out more about treasure hunting and metal detectors in the Treasure Hunting Magazine Beginner’s Guide