Reviews in Colorado Archaeology, Volume 2 (Article 1): 1-17

Methods Report

Metal Detection, An Essential Remote Sensing Approach for Historical Archaeologists

Charles M. Haecker (National Park Service [Retired]), Douglas D. Scott (Colorado Mesa University), and Patrick Severts (Independent Researcher)


Over the last thirty years, metal detection has become an essential tool in historical archaeology, yet the majority of archaeologists still know relatively little about metal detectors. In this review we trace the increasing use of metal detectors in archaeological survey and research following several notable successes in archaeological surveys that proved their worth. To understand the differences between the two basic types of metal detectors used by archaeologists we briefly explain how they function and what their relative strengths and weaknesses are for archaeological research. Metal detectors are most commonly used in archaeological survey and after offering examples of how they have proved useful in recent Colorado research we lay out a methodology for a successful metal detection survey. In many ways the survey techniques, sampling designs, and intensive data recovery principles for metal detection work are akin to those principles and techniques used in standard archaeological research. These principles simply have been adapted to take advantage of the capabilities offered by this remote sensing device for discovering unseen historic sites and for better understanding how the patterning in metal artifacts at battle sites, historic trails, and Indian encampments sometimes can offer a totally new view of history.

Keywords: metal detection; remote sensing; historic sites; survey techniques; research goals

Link to the complete article

Suggested Citation (SAA Style):
Haecker, Charles M., Douglas D. Scott, and Patrick Severts
2019   Metal Detection, An Essential Remote Sensing Approach for Historical Archaeologists. Reviews in Colorado Archaeology 2(Article 1):1-17., accessed January 10, 2019.

Supplementary Material

Supplement 1:
Connor, Melissa, and Douglas D. Scott
1998    Metal Detector Use in Archaeology: An Introduction. Historical Archaeology 32(4):76-85. [©Society for Historical Archaeology]


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