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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Using Metal Detectors in Archaeology

What are the Best Practices for Using Metal Detectors in Archaeology?

Michael Bernzweig of MetalDetector.com with the
XP DEUS Wireless metal detector and the Lesche Recovery
Tool. Photo © 2011 Detector Electronics Corp.
According to the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) “As the use of metal detectors has become generally accepted in historical archaeology, it has become clear that many professional archaeologists have not received training in how best to maximize their metal detecting experience.”

The RPA has recently certified a two-day; 16-credit course entitled “Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist” (AMDA). Through this course professional archaeologists will have the opportunity to get hands on field experience and training on the best practices to employ when using metal detectors in field research.

How to select a suitable metal detector for specific recoveries

Michael Bernzweig of MetalDetector.com said, “Consider the type of circuitry, frequency of operation and design of the detector for your application.” Modern metal detectors use either VLF or Pulse Induction designs. Lower frequencies are better for locating iron, copper and relics. Higher frequencies are best for locating gold and precious metals. Most land based metal detectors feature waterproof search coils. If your research takes you under water, select a fully submersible model. RPA Instructor Patrick Severts has utilized the multi frequency XP DEUS wireless metal detector in his field work.

How to select the best metal detector for your site

Many research sites draw archaeologists to remote locations. Mr. Bernzweig went on to say, “you should consider the weight, portability and features required for your site.” If you are hiking to a remote location choose a light weight model that collapses to a compact size. If you will be hunting in salt water, choose a waterproof detector that features a pulse induction circuit. Just like a camera, some models feature a turn on and go design. Other metal detectors allow the operator to fine tune every last setting. Are you more of a visual person or are you better with your hearing? Some models feature target identification using a visual LCD display. Other models offer tone based target identification.

How to budget for your equipment costs

Like all scientific devices, metal detectors range from entry level models to units that push the limits of technology. If your budget is restricted, you can start off with a basic model for under $500. Top models like the XP DEUS cost $1,899.00. Be sure to allocate funds in your budget for accessories like headphones, a pinpointer and optional search coils. For further research, MetalDetector.com provides detailed specifications and a comprehensive learning library online.


Michael Bernzweig manages MetalDetector.com in Southborough, MA. He earned his degree from Babson College in Wellesley, MA and has written extensively on the subject of metal detecting since the mid 1980’s. He has traveled world-wide in his pursuit of educating, exploring and advising others in the proper use of metal detectors. Outside of the business he enjoys mentoring students, being involved in the community and spending time with his family.


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