After much preparation and a 7 hour drive yesterday, today started early with a 7:30 team meeting to discuss previous work and goals of the Montpelier Metal Detecting Archaeology program.   The team gathered around coffee and donuts while Matt Reeves, PhD, director of Montpelier’s archaeological program, introduced us to the team as well as Minelab’s representatives..


We toured the mansion and then sat down in the front lawn to discuss the 10-foot grid that was positioned by the staff.  It struck me as a very positive move to have detectorists and archaeologists sitting in a circle, laughing and enjoying lunch together.

Gary Schafer, General Manager & President of the America’s Region for Minelab, was especially helpful – and I was very happy to talk to him, even showing him the Maprika setup for search and the potential for using Android as the operating system for metal detectorists.  The swag was pretty nice also!

Soon we paired off with the staff to begin the survey, and I began working with Jeanne, an archaeologist at Montpelier.  She took notes and cataloged finds while I learned the process of skewering signals, one for non-ferrous and two for ferrous signals.   At first, it was hard to break old habits of plug size, depth and delay gratification until we had an entire 10×10 square detected thoroughly, in all-metal mode.slide-2

I’ve not spent much time with my E-Trac in all-metal mode, so it took a bit of time to get into the groove.  Also, the soil in VA is high in iron concentration, so there were may false signals using my normal programs.   Lance Crosby, the staff detecting technician was a huge help.  On his advice, I dropped sensitivity to 10 and dug between iron signals, leading to more productivity.  My usual setup, it turns out was just too strong for the shallow objects at Montpelier.

detecting-front-lawnSo, what did we find?  Nails!  At least 5 varieties of hand-wrought nails and a few other iron pieces.  Each object, iron or not, was considered important and was carefully cataloged by Jeanne from the 10×10 unit we were sweeping.  I think we made it through 5 squares in 3 hours, to give you a sense of the speed.  S-L-O-W.

nails2So, by the standards of a private property coinshooting trip, this was not the best hunt.  Most of the iron signals I heard would have been skipped if I were out on a weekend outing at, say, an old farmhouse.

But in this case you must consider the broader narrative they’re trying to construct.  This was especially well illustrated using the finds maps that Matt showed us in the morning meeting (above.)  The number of hits within a unit will help the archaeology team decide whether to install an archaeological unit (5×5 foot) and take the time and energy to excavate.

I’ll be posting again, time permitting, tomorrow – so check back.

More posts on my Montpelier Experience here: