Friday, December 30, 2016

12/30/16 Report - Why A Thorough Systematic Visual Site Survey Is Recommended For Any Serious Treasure Hunt.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

I was watching a TV program about a very big treasure and the extensive hunt that has been and is being made to find the treasure.  Sometimes the method used on that extensive long term heavily funded search astounds me.

This is not the kind of treasure hunt that I usually write about, but a discussion of the approach should be useful whether you are hunting a Treasure Coast beach or some other completely different type of place.

First of all, the search I am talking about, although extensive and employing a multitude of "experts" and technologies, has not been very systematic.  It amazes me.

If it was me, the first thing I would do would be a comprehensive visual site survey.  I'd walk the entire area that is accessible and might be of possible relevance.   I would walk the entire area in a purposeful and predetermined pattern or grid  looking for any visual clues or features that could possibly be helpful.  That includes both visible objects and characteristics of the land.  Any possible clues and features would not only be noted but also mapped.  That would be the first step.

It is amazing what you can find by sight.  Ceramics or glass will often be the among the first and most obvious "sight clues" to past human activity.  Shards can often be seen on or near the surface after hundreds of years.  They can be very easy to see and can provide more useful information than you might think.

Detectorists can develop selective blindness.  They are interested in certain types of metal objects and are so determined to avoid what they call "junk" that they can ignore many potentially useful clues.

I've talked about Pigeon Island, for example.  Hundreds of 200-year-old shards littered the island. They weren't evenly spread about.  There were concentrations at certain locations, which is what you would expect, but the point is that they were laying on the surface after hundreds of years and screamed out to anyone that might pay attention that a lot happened there a long time ago.

When you see ceramics, or other surface items, get whatever information you can from them.  Take a good look and see what you can learn from them.  Look for marks.  Look at what they are made of.  Look at the designs.  They can tell you a lot if you study them.

Look for any patterns in how they are distributed.  That can tell you where certain types of things took place.  It can also tell you something about the ground.  Where have things stayed on the surface and where have things piled up or washed away, for example.  It is important to know something about the evolution of the ground.  Where things are found on the surface can tell you something about that.  Has the ground been packed down from usage, such as on a path or other heavily used area?

There are some areas where even light things get deeply buried in a hurry.  In the W. Va. woods that I hunt from time to time, there are areas where the leaves fall and deteriorate every year.  Even light things such as aluminum foil gets buried there.  And old objects of interest are deeply buried so quickly that they are mostly out of detector range there.  You need to know those types of variations and whether it is an area where you'll see near surface items or not.

I get to know the sites that I hunt.  I know where the soil is hard packed from either human activity or nature and where they are not.  That is important and useful information.

An extensive and systematic survey is too useful to be neglected whenever a specific area is going to be seriously hunted, yet the visual site survey would only be my first step. It would guide much of what I would do next.

I always do something of a sitr survey when I visit a beach too.  What does it look like?  What clues are there?  Where is the loose sand and where is the firm sand?  All of those things help determine what I'll do next.

On the TV program that I was watching I was amused as a detectorist walked out and started wandering around like a wild monkey.  And some of the observations were hilarious.  I really enjoyed watching it.  I guess that is what it is all about.  At that rate they'll be able to pick up random finds for several more years.  Makes a good TV program, and it won't come to an end any time soon if that is how they approach it.

You can find something old or interesting almost anywhere.  Most areas are heavily littered.  Some places the items might not be visual and they might not be in detector range, but if you are around area that have been inhabited or used at all, there are plenty of items out there to tell the story.

One of the good things about the Archeaeology of Pensacola book is that it presents a number of tables giving detailed lists of items and features found at various sites.  It gives you a baseline for comparison.  If you archaeologically dig a site, you'll find virtually everything in a well defined area - not just metal, but all kinds of things.  If you are not finding a good representation of the variety of types of objects, there is a reason whether it is selective blindness on the part of the searcher, or the forces of nature shifting and moving things, or the result of human activity.

Just as an example, I was taking a long hike in the Rockies one day and found an old abandoned cabin site.  There was no cabin there anymore.  No boards or anything like that.  The first sign, as is often the case, was surface glass and ceramics.  Then I found a man made depression, about the size of a small cabin.  Then not far off, the remains of an old stove.  I think I mentioned that in this blog at one time.

You'll be able to find things almost anywhere - in the mountains of Colorado, the hills of W. Va., beaches of Florida or islands of the Caribbean.  Even when you don't see them or can't detect them they are probably there.

Finds might or might not be related, but there is a story to be found if you systematically gather the information and analyze it.  A systematic site survey is the best first step.  If you didn't do it first, at least do it.  It will provide a lot of information that will help you develop a conceptual framework for the search.  It will save a lot of time and guide your next steps.


I might follow up with a description of subsequent steps in future posts.  I think I will go out and take some pictures to illustrate my point.

A cold front came through and it is actually a little chilly this morning.   We'll have some north winds, but not much surf today.  We'll get a little negative tide.

Happy hunting,