Dear Archaeologist…

Dear Archaeologist:

I am a detectorist. Someone who enjoys metal detecting in my spare time.  I have been involved in this recreational pastime now for just about 40 years, and have benefited greatly from it. It is an outdoor endeavor that has undoubtedly been good for my physical health as well as my mental well being.  I have also become interested in history as a result.

When I go metal detecting I have no idea what I might find or come home with.  Oh, I try to make sure that I am detecting an area that might hold something old, something of interest, and yes, something that might make me rich beyond my wildest dreams.  Have I found those things?  Well I’ve found hundreds if not thousands of items over the years.  Some of them are old, some of them are interesting, but most of them are junk.  Likewise I am still waiting for that one find that will put me on “easy street”.  I know in my heart that will never happen, but you see, that doesn’t really bother me because all my other detecting friends are in the same boat, and we know the odds of something like that occurring are nil and none.  We just love the thrill of the hunt.

Classify me a coin hunter if you like. That’s what I primarily search for, and the older the coin, the better of course.  I have never found a gold coin,  nor have I ever found a silver dollar.  I have found numerous silver and copper coins, mostly from the early 1800’s on and I have shared many  of them via talks and demonstrations at various community events.  Are they worth a lot of money? Not really, but they are coins I had fun finding, and each has a story…. none of which would be of interest to you.

I am writing to you today to enquire why you and your fellow archaeologists dislike me and my colleagues so much.  Just what is it we do that you find so distasteful?  Do we hunt on your archaeological sites?  No.  Do we find items that are of interest to you?  Of course but isn’t it great that we do?  I mean if we didn’t, who would?  Was that small town park or farmer’s field on your list of “to do’s”?

I wonder why you continue your effort to put us out of business by telling communities and governmental agencies that we destroy history!  Just what history are you referring to?  That which has yet to be discovered, or that which might overshadow your professional credibility?  I am sorry I just get a little confused.

I also wonder why when someone with a metal detector breaks the law, you assume that he or she is “all of us”,  yet when one of your colleagues does the same thing they are not painted with that very same wide brush.  I guess it doesn’t count somehow or it’s just not the same. Funny how that happens…

Mr. Archaeologist (may I call you Arkie?) there’s a lot of land out there, and yes maybe some of it is of historical significance.  The question of course is how will we ever know?  How can we uncover it’s past, it’s mysteries, it’s secrets without exploration?  Does is it all belong to you?  Are you just waiting for millions in grant money to tackle this monumental effort?  I think not, yet you work so damn hard at making sure we never have the opportunity either. Kinda selfish wouldn’t you say?

Arkie my friend, I have another question.  Why is it that you almost never reach out to us, and ask us to help in your efforts?  Is that just simply “too embarrassing”?  Oh, I know you’ve thrown a few crumbs our way, but it’s hardly ever a joint effort, and in one instance you even asked detectorists to pay a large sum of money to participate.

Over the years I and others have volunteered our time to help law enforcement officials, historical groups, those who have lost valuables and we have participated in various charitable causes.  We could help you too if only you would just “get over it”.  I know, I know, many of us do not have college degrees, and yes, probably some of us never graduated high school, but what we do have is knowledge that you can use and not just in the technical sense.

I know of relic hunters who can identify found items instantly, and even speak to it’s history or importance in a particular location,  battle or campaign. They could and would put you to shame, yet again you refuse to accept their input.  Instead you would rather work at depriving them the right to find that next relic, that item that if you had your way, would never see the light of day.  Oh, I know you think it would be better left in the ground, but do you really believe that?  Would you prefer it be lost forever under a shopping mall? I mean, come on please….


Just recently Ed Vaizey, Heritage Minister in the UK said….

“There’s something essentially mysterious and exciting about buried treasure, and I’m delighted that each year reveals still more finds. These items  help us get a fuller picture of how life was lived centuries ago, and add enormously to our rich and varied cultural heritage. I also salute all the responsible metal  detectorists – true heritage heroes – whose patience and unceasing curiosity do so much to bring this treasure to light”.


So Arkie I look forward to your response, and your reasons for casting doubt on our hobby as well as our integrity.  We seek nothing more than the reasonable right to pursue our pastime, and while I know this is hard for you to understand, we’re honest, hard working people, who love history too.  Imagine that?


A tax paying, metal detecting enthusiast



I am about to embarrass myself because I was not aware of his death, but Glenn Carson passed away in May of this year.  I only just heard about it last evening after receiving an email from Bill Chapman, long time treasure hunter in Golden, Colorado.

Glenn and I first met back in the early 80’s, and he and Mary were always willing  participants at our FMDAC conventions.  We also ran into each other a lot when I was with Garrett.  A more kinder man never existed.  His wife Mary, passed away in 2004.  Glenn was and is a legend in this pastime and he will be missed.  RIP Glenn….


Above, left to right, Mary & Glenn at FMDAC Convention mid 80’s, Glenn giving seminar. Bottom left to right, Glenn with Sam Abramo at FMDAC party and and Glenn, far right at early Paul Tainter Treasure Expo…

How I missed his passing, and why I did not bother to contact him over the years bothers me a great deal. Forgive me Glenn..

A fitting tribute is shared HERE…..



Government Minister Becomes a Club Member for a Day

Oklahoma Teen Finds 3.85 Carat Diamond

Gold in Trees May Hint at Buried Treasure

Gold Rush: How Much Hidden Treasure is Found  Each Year?



Filed under Metal Detecting

31 responses to “Dear Archaeologist…

  1. Dick, I’d write more but I’m about to be picked up by archaeologists to head out to a homestead site to work together today (will post soon on my blog) … but perhaps you may find this post helpful… The more I spend time with archaeologists the less mysterious they are, as well as their motivations.

    • Scott, I am aware of your past work with archaeologists and commend you for it. Guess I am from the old school….my experiences have never been that gratifying, and that is putting it mildly.

  2. Lisa MacIntyre

    I will also post more later. But, I will leave you with this thought. It seems that while asking not to be lumped into one general category, you are doing that very thing with all archaeologists. You make many very valid points, to which I will comment on later and back you 100%. However, I am a bit bristled that I, as an archaeologist who has (I feel) proven I am not against your hobby, am lumped into a group of general no-gooders who never listens to the other side, one of your main points of contention against “us”.

    • Uh oh, the “I will post more later” means Lisa is mad and preparing an all out attack. Damn, hell has no fury….

      You do know Lisa that you are a more kind and gentler arkie.

  3. Lisa MacIntyre

    Just you wait, Dick Stout! 🙂

  4. I too agree it is a well written blog, with many great points. I’m leaving next week to go to Montpeilier to spend a week working with archaeologist learning what they do and showing them what we do. it is an ongoing program associated with Minelab. I guess its time to see how the other half lives. will post my thoughts after I’m done on the 16th.

  5. Clearly the blog entry was a bit tongue in cheek, but the distinction between an opinion and legislation is what I take away from Dick’s comments.

    Perhaps the barriers are being brought down, and there is a future in working together, but until detectorists get paid for their services, can we say they tread on even ground.

    Maybe they do get paid, and while many provide services for free out of kindness is hurting the hobby. People tend to value things on how much it cost for the product or service. Would you prefer a free lawyer or one who charges $400 an hour. If money was not an object and the results would be different between the options, of course the premium option prevails.

    Frankly I don’t mind so much either way; I take things as they come and address them on a case by case basis. I have thought of contacting an archaeologist for a project in my local area that might be of interest, but at the same time toil over locations to hunt as a result of their legislative efforts. If Metal detecting was my life, I might feel different about the battle between the two parties. Maybe that is what threatens archaeologist the most.

    There are so many bigger problems in the world…I can’t let this one get to me.

    • “There are so many bigger problems in the world…I can’t let this one get to me”…

      I know you are right Jamie, but we always seem to come out on the short end when it comes to this subject,
      and after a while it’s just time to say enough!

  6. Whilst I agree with Lisa’s take on your comments Riccardo, I cannot fathom why you wrote what you did in the first place. I’m probably in a minority of one in these politically correct times, but I’m proud to be a treasure hunter, and I do what I do for the money. My Garrett ATPro has found me significant amounts of cash in the past 18-months and am well satisfied with its performance.

    Treasure hunting/metal detecting is entirely legal, and wholesome. I don’t need the approval of archaeologists to do what I do, though I do think some of them need a firm hand, bearing in mind the amount of looted ceramics finding their way via dodgy museums, bent curators, and brown envelopes stuffed with used notes dropped in sensitive areas. Then accuse us of corruption!

    There are decent arkies out there, and there are those who are not…mostly they are not. The chinless ones feel threatened by the sheer amount of quality finds coming to light and forming the basis of serious academic study which, in turn, highlights their own shortcomings.This is amply exemplified by the Council for British Archaeology’s wonderfully ludicrous support for the now deeply flawed, and widely ridiculed Artefact Erosion Counter, the brainchild of rancid, anti-metal detecting amateurs….prime amongst whom, describes himself as a tanned, sushi loving, cat lover!

    You/we don’t need the approval of these oddballs or any others of their ilk. However, thanks to these intellectually-free radicals, archaeology in the UK is slowly becoming a laughing stock. I am impressed!

    What a state of affairs.

  7. G.W.

    Dear metal hunter,

    Do we hunt on your archaeological sites?
    Yes, many of you do! And even more discover new ones, hide them or destroy them. And in many cases they sell it with faked proveniances.

    Do we find items that are of interest to you?
    Yes, of course. That’s the problem.

    isn’t it great that we do? No. It would be great, if metal detecting would be a non-invasive method. But taking the find out of the ground is already a destruction of a context. There are so many hoards in Britain, but we still have not learned how they were integrated in past societies. Because we nearly never get the necessary contexts. Detectorists concentrate on metal, so they will never find the settlement contexts. Necessary rescue excavations only can try to verify the deposition of the hoard, if not already destroyed by treasure hunters. So we in fact learn quite few by all these new hoards. We rather should do large scale geophysical prospection, which will not give valuable results, if the area is already perforated by metal hunters.

    I mean if we didn’t, who would?
    The next generations would have a possibility to discover them, hopefully with more sophisticated methods and with their own approaches of historical interpretation. Because you are metal hunting your kids and grandchildren will not have a prehistory any more. True archaeology is today rescue archaeology.

    Was that small town park or farmer’s field on your list of “to do’s”?
    No, probably it was not, because all our personal and financial ressources are already necessary to deal with construction sites (and cataloguing all these metal pieces). We do not have the time to make rescue excavations behind metal hunters.

    I wonder why you continue your effort to put us out of business by telling communities and governmental agencies that we destroy history!
    What else can we do? The result of PAS is an incresing umber of metal hunters and an incresing number of destructed sites (however, we now know, where they were destroyed!)

    Just what history are you referring to?
    Our common history! It belongs to the whole society, not to single hunters.
    That which has yet to be discovered, or that which might overshadow your professional credibility?
    Just making finds is not writing history.

    In theory people are welcome to join working on our history – but please it is not necessary to collect every piece of metal and to destroy all archaeological sources. There are many chances to work on history without destroying it.
    It is the effort of cultural heritage management to give future generations the possibility to deal with their past for their own – by their methods, which will need to have some archaeological site in sound.

    someone, who you would call an arkie

    • Do we hunt on your archaeological sites?
      “Yes, many of you do! And even more discover new ones, hide them or destroy them. And in many cases they sell it with faked proveniances”

      Hmm, there you go again…MANY of us do. Fact or assumption? As for you last sentence, I haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

      Do we find items that are of interest to you?
      “Yes, of course. That’s the problem”.

      Pretty spot on response, and therein lies the whole of what pisses you off. JMO but you folks need to get over the idea that YOU are the only ones capable of finding and sharing history, and you know what, we don’t sit around waiting for someone to pay us to do it.

  8. Robbie

    A friend of mine helped locate items with his detector, flag where they were and then the officials dug them. Someone drove by and asked what they were looking for. My detectorist friend said “..looking for relics.”..the official rudely corrected him saying “We are searching for ARTIFACTS !!”.
    But I do have a couple friends schooled in archaeology and one metal detects…….

  9. Lisa MacIntyre

    Well now you have gone and done it, Dick. You have pissed off a pseudo arkie. Still mulling my response since I had to remove the curse words.

  10. Robbie

    Saying areas that “might be”, “are possible”, “unknown” and “future” sites and having them restricted to metal detecting is unfair. Also areas that have been “tested” and no artifacts were found should be able to be searched by metal detector users. How is keeping these areas closed to detecting because of artifacts the arkie thinks might be there…but isn’t sure helping or benefittting anyone?

  11. Lisa MacIntyre

    Okay…here goes. I am going to respond as a matter of clarification on certain points.
    “Most of them are junk”. “None of which would be of interest to you”. To an archaeologist, nothing is junk and everything is of interest. It is why we became archaeologists. Every artifact, ecofatc, and feature found in the ground is a piece of history. It tells a story. Is it important? Maybe, maybe not. But everything we find is documented and recorded. What may not be important to me, for example, may be important to someone else. “Something that might make me rich…still waiting for that one find that will put me on easy street”. Most archaeologists do not do this for the money either (One look at my bank account will verify this). In fact, most archaeologists are not looking for anything that will make them money because whatever is found is not theirs to own. Even if they found El Dorado, they could not keep it, so in that respect detectorists have the one up. Are there unscrupulous arkies that may pocket things? I’m sure there are, just as there are these types of people in every profession and hobby.

    “…we destroy history. “Just what history are you referring to?” Archaeology is destructive. It destroys history the second a shovel is stuck into the ground. Once dug, it can never be returned. It is for this reason that everything from the soils type, depth, lat and long (X,Y, and Z), surrounding ecosystem, and context are documented, measured, bagged and photographed. What may seem of no interest at the time may later shed light on something else. Connecting the dots so to speak. Piecing together a past culture from clues in the dirt is no easy task, no matter what anyone says.

    “I know of relic hunters who can identify found items instantly, and even speak to it’s history or importance in a particular location, battle or campaign. They could and would put you to shame, yet again you refuse to accept their input” I, for one, would relish the knowledge that relic hunters possess. However, I also expect the same respect. Yes, I have a college degree. Yes i worked very hard for that degree. Yes, I am VERY proud of my degree. Do I know more than a detectorist? I don’t think that is a fair question. I know how to figure out the height of a tree from its shadow but I do not begin to profess that I know more than an engineer. I know how to change the oil in my car but I do not claim to know more than a mechanic. At the same time, can I identify a coin, or a buckle, or a bullet? No way! But I can look at pottery, shells, and a burnt corn cob and charcoal and begin to form a picture of a culture. Archaeology is a lot more than digging in the dirt and identifying what we find. It is weighted heavily in anthropology (which is what any archaeologists degree states they are). Archaeology is one of four sub branches of anthropology. One may specialize in archaeology (which I did) but anthropology is the background to my degree. That being said, every detectorist I have met so far are outstanding historians. And the two degrees do tend to overlap depending on ones area of interest. I think there is a huge misconception about what archaeologists actually do. Just as I had a huge misconception as to what you do. But I have listened and I have learned. And I am glad I did.

    “Would you prefer it be lost forever under a shopping mall?” Absolutely not! I would prefer we work together. Because I know we can. I know that relic hunters are a valuable resource that our field is overlooking. Is it pride? Probably to some. For me it is more about detectorists being receptive to learning documentation and context and its importance. If I knew that a detectorist knew these things and their importance I would not even care if I was next to them while they were digging. I would trust them explicitly. But I also feel that I deserve the respect and acknowledgement that I do know what I am doing. And the way I do it is not random macho my way shit. It is for a reason, which I am happy to share to anyone that is interested.

    • Lisa, thank you for taking the time to share you views. I appreciate it.

      One thing about archaeology and archaeologists that has always bothered me is that much of what they do or document is “guess work” and “theory”. Is it valuable? I suppose, but to make it so sacred just never sat well with me. Then again I guess you know that already.

      Now I having said this, I cannot return the wine. I drank it!

    • Well put Lisa (responding to your longer comment)

      • Scott’s looking for a bottle of wine too Lisa….

      • Scott I am aware of your close association with archaeologists but I have to ask you something. Would these same archaeologists help you and the other detectorists in the Louisville area with regards to closing of the parks there? Would they make it a point to show up in person before the local governing body, if needed, to lend some credence to those that simply want to enjoy their pastime?

      • Mayor Fischer told me once that Louisville is going to continue to take the lead from the State parks, so the real question is related to those. And no, I don’t think any Archaeologists are going to put their career / tenure / degree on the line by going to bat for “free for all” state park access by relic hunters (many of whom are pretty “f-u” in their attitude about preservation and the discipline of Anthropology in general) I would like to see a permit based system co-designed by detectorists and Archaeologists – based on some work together and a minimal amount of education. This will *severely* limit the number of detectorists gaining permits, I know, and I’m cool with that. I cannot imagine setting some of the detecting hicks I’ve seen here in KY off on State property with a shovel.

        For me, I’m happy to be earning their trust here in KY and also developing practical skills to contribute productively to larger project goals. I carry away digital photos of artifacts, not artifacts. The actual artifacts continue through the academic process, but my name is attached to them. It also puts a whole new level of demands on my skills as a detectorist, working as a team. In recent projects, I regularly locate important finds that the entire dig team missed. I recently located a 1830s thimble in the middle of a slave quarters that was supposed to be rendered totally sterile by the dig team. I found important evidence for a still for a distillery project that another group of students left behind. I love being able to help – and think I’ll be doing more and more of this.

        As far as State parks, I really doubt they will be open any time soon. But I think I’ll (with my Archaeology cohorts) be swinging on some of the earliest sites in KY very soon – and you’ll see these artifacts shared on social media… while the other detecting hobbyists pull yet another wheat penny out of the neighborhood park. Yawn!

        I’d prefer bourbon, thanks.

      • Well, I am happy for you Scott. As I said before, my experiences have pretty much been all negative, and I guess we will just have to agree to disagree here. Good luck getting bourbon our of Lisa…remember she is an archaeologist.

  12. Lisa MacIntyre

    I’m sure you know this already, but a scientific theory “is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.” (Wiki) Can we disprove a theory? Most certainly, and we do! However, until we do, we rely on tested hypothesis as a starting point. I, for one, am always questioning theories. (Except gravity. I don’t question gravity. I don’t understand it so I can’t even begin to question it) But that is the nature of science and it is what we should do.
    I’m guessing no wine with my spaghetti?

  13. Wine with spaghetti should never be questioned. I’ve observed it for a number of years, can confirm it’s existence and it’s medicinal qualities have never been disputed. It’s a Stout Standard that no meal will ever be served without wine. If and when we meet the next bottle will be on me.

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