Montpelier Archaeology Certificate Program

Research & Collections

The Metal-Detector Expedition is the latest archaeological program offered by Montpelier. Designed for metal-detector specialists and hobbyists, the program serves to introduce the significance of archaeological methods such as gridded surveys, density plots to define site concentrations, and a deeper understanding of the past.  The Montpelier Foundation's Archaeology Department is developing leading-edge methodology for involving the metal detector community in  the use of metal detectors as a remote-sensing device to locate and protect sites.  One of the main emphasizes during the week-long training program is the importance of site context for individual finds.

While participating in the program, you will stay in the antebellum plantation house known as Arlington House. There are other more individualized housing options on the property for an extra charge or there is the option of local B&Bs.

Our programs run Monday through Friday (arrive on Sunday night and leave on Saturday morning) and are as follows for the 2015 season:


  • Session #1-April 3-8, 2016 (canceled) 
  • Session #2-November 6-11 (full!)


  • Session #1-April 2-7, 2017

During the expedition, you will be involved in two types of surveys using a mapped grid across the landscape:

  1. Grid-based landscape survey.  Participants will use their metal detectors to survey previously unexplored parts of the property to locate historic sites.  Moving grid-by-grid participants will metal-detect, mark,  and selectively sample hits to help identify archaeological sites so they can be recorded for future study and preserved.  In 2013 we will be exploring a historic wood lot on Chicken Mountain. Video on grid survey to find sites:

  1. Grid-based survey (archaeological site).  Participants will use their metal detector to plot artifacts across a site to determine its size and density of hits.  These plots will show archaeologists where they should place their units to investigate features and deposits at archaeological sites.  During the 2013 season, we will be looking for the early 19th century carriage road in the front lawn of the mansion.  In the process we will be finding and recording other sites in this locale dating from the 18th century to the Civil War. Video on grid survey to define sites:

During the week-long program, participants will learn how finds are conserved, catalogued, and curated as part of the Archaeological Collections of James Madison’s Montpelier.  For an example information packet, see the following link

We also welcome archaeologists who are interested in learning about metal detecting to attend these programs. Learn more about the benefits of metal detecting for archaeology and what archaeologists can gain from this program here!

For more information about how to participate in this program, please contact Matthew Reeves, Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration, at or (540) 672-2728 x 161.


You may also be interested in:

Metal detectorist participant and staff archaeologists working together to record metal hits at quarter for field slaves.


"It was an honor just to be on the site that was walked by President Madison and so many esteemed and famous Americans. More than anything else, I was humbled by the experience and came away with an understanding of what archaeology does for history."

Metal-Detector Expedition participant

For a more in-depth video on our collaboration between archaeologists and metal detectorists, check the following link: