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How to Search for Historical Places to Metal Detect

Updated on April 25, 2019
Alex Lemaire profile image

With my tips, metal detecting will become a piece of cake. It’s not as difficult as it seems to be.

In this article, I will share with you some free online resources that you can use to find historical hidden locations to metal detect. Little pieces of metal junk that looks worthless may be considered very precious if it has a historical value, the older the better. In addition to that, imagine your feeling when you hold in your hand a tool that has been used years ago by one of your ancestors.

Historicaerials.com

It is a tool that allows you to compare topographic and aerial photos that were taken over the years for the same spot. With this website, you can identify the location of structures that no longer exist. What appears today as a field or forest could have been a house, a factory or a farm…years ago.

When comparing aerial photos or maps of the same area that were drawn, for example, 50 years apart from each other, you can find good locations to metal detect. People used to frequent these areas and they certainly lost stuff, and they are waiting for you.

These aerial photos and topographic maps were scattered over many locations, they were stored and archived in different spots all over the country in public and private organizations. These maps were in paper format, you might need permission to get to access them, also don’t forget about the bureaucracy and the wait time. Some of the old historical documents may even be water damaged.

Now, thanks to this free service, finding historical locations to metal detect became much easier and faster. The maps are digitized, available online and easy to access with a few clicks. Moreover, the images were orthorectified which means that the distortions caused by the shape of the ground, problems with camera lenses and the angle at which the photo was taken were removed to give a higher quality image than what you can find in the paper version. There are Watermarks on the maps, you can purchase them for better visibility. But you can get a ton of information for free.

It’s easy to use. First, type in the address or geo-coordinates of the location that you want to investigate in the search bar. The age of the available aerials photos differs from area to area. The oldest one is believed to be taken in 1920 above New Jersey, topographic maps are usually older than that.

Then you simply overlay two maps of the same location and you compare what changed over the years using the slide or dissolve tool. To increase your chances of finding historical relics, metal detect the same spot twice: before and after the field has been plowed.

Historicmapworks.com

This tool is similar to the previous website, but there are a few differences. Overall, the maps available on Historicmapworks.com are older than those on Historicaerials.com. You can find antique rare maps that are centuries old.

The latter is restricted only to the US. In Historicmapworks.com, you can find maps of many countries, cities, and regions all over the world.

On the first site, you find only aerial photos and topographic maps. On the second, there is a variety of documents. You can find a birdseye view of many locations that can be as old as the 1890s and even older. The site offers directories and other historical textual documents and more…

Although you can find aerial photos, the collection isn’t as rich as that of Historicaerials.com, it completely crashes the competition in quality and quantity and the way aerials are displayed and geocoded.

To conclude, I recommend using Historicaerials.com as your main source for historical maps and use Historicmapworks.com only if you need older maps, you live outside of the US or you need historical documents other than maps.

Google Maps

It is the most obvious tool that you can use and it’s available worldwide. You can see how the land changed over time if you use google earth. But they are not going to be as old as the two previous websites. I think most of you are familiar with the website and I don’t want to repeat things that you already know. However, I want to remind you of the google street view feature (the yellow little guy at the bottom right corner). You can this tool to explore the area you want to metal detect without having to physically be there.

Bing Maps

It is not as popular as google maps. But it has a nice feature, the birdseye imagery. Images from the oblique perspective is a great addition to the 2D satellite or aerial images. You can get a very good idea on how the location you want to hunt looks like. However, the data is limited. Bing said, in 2017, that their database includes 450 areas and they are working to add more.

© 2019 Alex Lemaire

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