Metal detectors are devices which use electromagnetic induction to locate metal. Uses for metal detectors include hobbyists, archeology and demining (removal of mines from the ground) and weapon detection. They can be used in construction to find pipes and wiring and on beaches to find coins. Detectors work by using an alternative current to pass through a coil, producing an alternating magnetic field. The conductive nature of metal means that if it comes in proximity to the detector, then the field acts as a magnometer, simply put changing the magnetic field and indicating the presence of metals.
Treasure hunting has long held appeal as evidenced by plenty of modern and classical fiction, and the hobby attracts people from all walks of life. It is an exciting hobby for many, offering the possibility of finding items of great value and interest and of course one never knows what will be found which adds to the excitement. It is also a great outdoor hobby, allowing the practitioner to sometimes cover great distances in the hunt without even realizing it – great for extra exercise!
Early detectors in the 19th century we used for to try and find ore bearing rocks for mining purposes, and although they were crude, they have developed into an intricate and sophisticated piece of machinery in their present form. Their use in archeology was soon apparent, and the use of detectors for both the hobbyist and the serious archeologist has increased throughout the years. Some are more sensitive than others, and for a beginner there are a variety of cost options on the market with varying degrees of sensitivity. Some European countries do have quite specific rules and laws regarding the use of metal detectors, and there is a code of conduct in place to ensure detectors act within the limit of the law and of course according to matters of courtesy. The practice of outlawing metal detecting has led to some very serious debate amongst the detecting community, as it is considered by some to have led to the rise of ‘nighthawking’, the metal detecting equivalent of grave robbing, that is sneaking in at might to use a detector and sneak away with important finds. This is one reason why, although the UK has no ban in place, following some basic courtesy ideals is so important to the hobby.
Metal detecting has quite a precise code of conduct, and must adhere to all standard UK laws. You do not need a license to use a metal detector in the UK, as this was scrapped by the Home Office in 1980.
The basic premises of metal detecting courtesy are:
- Respect the land – from the country code (not leaving gates open or trespassing on land near to crops or animals which may be affected) and get permission to search the land from the landowner
- Leave the site as you found it. Use the correct digging tool and make as little mess as possible, making sure you then replace the grass or soil you displaced
- If you uncover any item of danger such as an unexploded weapon, do NIOT disturb it but call in the authorities immediately who will tell you what to do and remove it to a safe place. This applies no matter how old the relic may look as ammunition may still be live and dangerous
- Report any unusual finds to the landowner
- Look at the definitions of Treasure in the Treasure Act of 1996, and familiarize yourself with the NCMD’s (National Council of Metal Detectorists) practices regarding portable antiquities. Remember to report significant or unusual finds to the landowner and relevant authorities
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