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Professional Archaeologists Attend Metal Detecting Workshop

Group photo of AMDA participants
A group shot of participants and their instructors. Photo: Brad McDonald/DHR, 2024.

Archaeologists from across the Commonwealth gathered in Central Virginia to receive training in metal detecting strategies for fieldwork.

By Brad McDonald | DHR Easement Stewardship Coordinator and Archaeologist

Last week, DHR had the distinct honor to host several instructors for a three-day workshop entitled, “Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist” (AMDA). The main goal of the training was to communicate survey methodology, equipment procedures, data recordation, and other best practices to the professional archaeological community. Participants in the training received lessons on how to use metal detection as part of a systematic archaeological survey to identify and delineate historic archaeological sites and battlefield resources more precisely.

Participants spent the first day of training in the classroom at Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Rice Rivers Center, where instructors discussed equipment, preparation, and evaluation of appropriate research designs. The class covered survey strategies as well as the evaluation of case studies from previous investigations. For the remaining two days of the workshop, participants applied the techniques they learned in the classroom to a field exercise at the Malvern Hill property in Henrico County. Owned by the county and protected by a historic preservation easement held by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, Malvern Hill proved to be an excellent setting for participants to apply these concepts.

First day classroom instruction
Day 1 of Training: Classroom instruction at VCU's Rice Rivers Center. Photo: Brad McDonald/DHR, 2024.

From left, Joel Dukes (NPS), Jill Schuler (DHR), and Colleen Betti (Dovetail CRG)
Instructors and archaeologists applying concepts from the classroom in the field at Malvern Hill. From left: Joel Dukes (NPS), Jill Schuler (DHR), and Colleen Betti (Dovetail CRG). Photo: Brad McDonald/DHR, 2024.

The fieldwork was successful in identifying numerous specimens of architectural debris and household items as well as additional concentrations of spent ammunition and other military items related to the fighting that took place in and around the farm during the American Civil War. The results of this work will be analyzed and used to guide future research on Malvern Hill.

Overview of Malvern Hill study area
An overview of the Malvern Hill study area. Photo: Brad McDonald/DHR, 2024.

From left: Jess Hendrix (DHR) and Bryce Stanley (Henrico County).
From left: Jess Hendrix (DHR) and Bryce Stanley (Henrico County). Photo: Brad McDonald/DHR, 2024.

Approximately 32 individuals representing numerous Federal, state, and local agencies participated in the training. Staff from several private cultural resource consulting firms were also in attendance. DHR wishes to thank VCU for allowing our use of the Education Building at the Rice Center; Bryce Stanley of the Henrico County Division of Recreation and Parks for the opportunity to study the Malvern Hill Farm property; and class instructors Joseph Balicki, Mary Jane Balicki, Joel Dukes (NPS), Chris Espenshade (New South Associates), and Kerry Gonzalez (NPS) for sharing their deep knowledge and expertise with all the participants.

If you would like to find out more about the work of AMDA, please visit

Group photo of AMDA participants
A group shot of participants and their instructors. Photo: Brad McDonald/DHR, 2024.

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