The Kentucky Archaeologist

| March 5, 2010 | 1 Comment
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HOPKINS COUNTY, KY – Spring is finally beginning to show in Western Kentucky, and with it plenty of opportunities for getting off the couch and enjoying the outdoor adventures. This week, we will be discussing a highly untapped outdoor adventure called metal detecting.

Metal detecting is the archaeology of Kentucky. It is an affordable hobby that will actually pay for itself in the long run, plus it gives you access to the past that most people never have the opportunity to experience. You see, Western Kentucky has a very colorful and long history, as most towns and areas having been populated since the early 1800’s and some even before that. Throughout time, people have changed in a lot of ways, but not in the case of clumsiness. We drop things. People have been dropping and misplacing various items for centuries, and the Western Kentucky metal detecting fanatics are the ones that find them.

Initially you will need a metal detector. Decent ones can be bought at various department stores or online for reasonable prices. The price is only relevant for the first short while. After metal detecting for awhile, you will find that you end up digging enough coins from the ground to pay for the detector. My metal detector cost me $100.00. Since I bought it 4 years ago, I’ve made right around $340.00 in change alone. It has paid for itself several times over. On that note, I suggest you keep up with the modern change you find so you know when your detector has paid for itself.

Once you have your detector, get to know it before you take it out into your ideal treasure hunting spot. Get something silver, gold, aluminum, brass, and something made from plain iron. Take your metal detector across each of these, paying close attention to the sound that it makes. Memorize the sounds so you know what you’re coming across. Most detectors have filters that you can turn on where you won’t pick up certain types of metal, like iron. This is for those searching mainly for the really good stuff, such as rings and coins.

Once you have gotten to know your detector, it’s time to get your gear together. A digging tool is a necessity. Personally, I prefer a bowie knife, but some people use things as simple as a small garden shovel (really small) or even a screwdriver. It’s best to avoid big shovels as you don’t want to pack a heavy shovel throughout your trip. Another item you will need is a bag or pouch of some sort to put your findings in. Lastly, wear gloves. Don’t mess with the thin cloth ones. You need something tough. All too often detector fanatics have come home with sliced up hands from digging into a broken bottle or sharp steel edge.

Now, one last thing before you hit the road. Pick a good spot. Your spot depends upon what you are looking for. If you’re just in it for modern coins, a local ballpark is a good idea. Any place that has a large crowd at least once per year, such as a fairground or flea market, should do the trick. If you are into relics, as I am, do some research. Find out where an old cabin stood over a hundred years ago, or even a settlement.

Now, with all that out of the way, it’s time to hit the dirt and start digging up the treasures. Before you do, however, here are a few tips for you. First, make sure you have permission to enter the land and to dig up small holes. Next, always put the dirt back into the holes, or else the owner will likely ban you from the spot. Never, under any circumstances, metal detect in or too near a cemetery. This is a felony crime, no matter how old the cemetery is. Finally, expect a lot of aluminum. Metal detector fans will all tell you that they find more soda bottle tops can tabs, and aluminum cans than anything else. Don’t let this frustrate you. It’s just part of the journey hobby.

I will leave you with a little something to think about. Most people wonder if it’s really all that great of a hobby. In my four years of metal detecting I have discovered several gold and silver rings, gold and silver necklaces, antique metal army buttons, one shotgun, one pistol, several knives, and even an old wax stamp like those used in the 1800’s to seal envelopes. As coins go, at the moment my oldest find is an 1889 silver dollar. You see, there are actual treasures out there to be found. Keep in mind that in the old days, most old-timers didn’t use banks. They would take their money and put it into coffee cans and old mason jars and bury it in the ground.

Grab your Fedora, your whip, and crank up your Indiana Jones theme song, and don’t forget the metal detector. Have fun on a real WK Archaeology quest. Until next week, we will see you in the woods…or perhaps on the water. The fish should be biting soon!

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