One of the things we did out at Pea Ridge National Military Park during last summer’s Arkansas Archeological Society Training Program was a systematic metal detector workshop. We took the first couple of days to test the differences in efficacy between three different approaches to surveying battlefields.
The first of these was what we could call a “relic hunter” approach, with little structure, just a lot of groups of metal detector operators working within a defined area, focusing on it until they were satisfied, as a group, that the area had been covered. We flagged all of their hits, but did not dig them.
Afterwards, we laid out corridors, as we commonly do in archeological projects, and swept back through the same area, again locating but not digging hits.
Finally, we did what we call the 2-2-90 method, where we lay out 20m grids and put two different metal detectors of two different types in each, working at 90 degrees to one another. This time, we both plotted and dug the hits.
There have been very few studies to quantify the differences in these techniques, and this is far from an extensive one, but we did get an interesting result:
While I was a little surprised to see that the corridor method came in last, I would state that more time was given to the relic hunting approach, which may account for some difference. Clearly, though, the 2-2-90 method produced the best results.
A tip of the hat to Arkansas Archeological Society member Steve Jacober for asking for these numbers and spurring this ever-so-brief write-up.
Carl G. Drexler