New skills

Kristin detectingI am an archaeologist who believes in the power of metal detector as a useful tool for archaeological research. Last year, this belief was strengthened as from all of the archaeological research initiatives undertaken at the Kvarnbo Hall site, metal detector survey was by far the most rewarding. Thus, I suppose, it was only a matter of time before I learned how to use it myself 😀 And, as a proud owner of Deus XP metal detector, learning how to use it is exactly what I have spent all my spare time during this autumn. Furthermore, as much as weather has been in my favour, I have also been metal detecting at “my” site – I have already spent many, many hours in the field and, so far, I have dug around 150 holes of direct archaeological relevance. Therefore, I would like to briefly reflect on metal detecting.

So, why metal detecting?

Metal detecting is a form of geophysics – it uses a type of magnetometer to detect metal buried in the soil, which gives an audio signal over the location. If used in a proper way, metal detecting has a lot of advantages (*relatively cheap, *easy to use, *fast, *can survey large areas, *can survey 100% of an area, etc.) and it can be a great asset for archaeological research. Archaeologists use metal detectors primarily in order to:

  • Detect and delimit sites
  • Clarify the amount of finds at the site
  • Obtain greater and more diverse find material
  • Date sites
  • Determine the character of the sites
  • Establish potential hot-spots for further investigations

But then there is this other side of metal detecting whereat crucial information about archaeological sites is being lost as a result of metal detector being used just in order to collect artefacts. It is one of the most fundamental archaeological facts that knowledge about the place where the artefact was found and about the circumstances of the find allows for a much fuller and more nuanced understanding about the past times. Also, for archaeologists it is obvious that you do not start rub or wipe or wash the finds as this is not only harmful for artefacts, but might also destroy information about the object. An ignorant cleansing might, for example, remove traces of colour or residues of organic material stuck on the artefact – particles with an information value that an incorrect handling might damage. Clearly, I am very sad to hear about the cases when a person handling metal detector is just after digging a metal detector target without any consideration about the above mentioned aspects, and, thereby, depriving us all of the chance to learn about the past.

The site of Kvarnbo Hall is on a field that has been ploughed for a long time, for hundreds of years, regularly. However, topsoil, no matter how much it has been moved around and ploughed, is still a part of the site. Thus, clearly, all the holes I dig at the site are being recorded – but I will account for this in my next post.



7 thoughts on “New skills

  1. James Crowther

    Dr. Ilves, I very much enjoy your posts. With the use of metal detectors have there been any recent discoveries of English minted coins from the late iron age around the Kvarnbo Hall site or on the Åland Islands?

    1. Kristin Ilves Post author

      Thank you so much! Unfortunately there are no English minted coins from the Late Iron Age discovered on Åland. Actually, so far, there are only two Late Iron Age/early medieval contiental coins known from this archipelago and this fact has been often used in order to argue for the total depopulation of Åland in the middle of the 11th century. Obviously, this is oversimplification, as coins are not representative of the people, coins are representative of trade routes.

      P.S. Even though it does not count – I have found one modern English coin from the Kvarnbo Hall site: 1 penny 1893 🙂

      1. James Crowther

        Dr. Ilves, Thanks so much for your reply. The 1893 penny is a good find too!

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