Can You Metal Detect in a Cemetery?


To most of the world, graveyards or cemeteries are somber, quiet resting places for loved ones. These resting grounds should be an area that is not disturbed, a place where families can visit their lost loved ones in peace.

Whether or not it is legal to metal detect in a cemetery can depend on various factors, including the specific location’s laws and regulations and the cemetery’s policies. In general, metal detecting in a cemetery is considered a sensitive and potentially disrespectful activity and may be prohibited or restricted in some cases.

In the United States, federal laws do not specifically address metal detecting in cemeteries, but many states and localities have laws that regulate the activity. For example, some states, such as California and Virginia, have laws that specifically prohibit metal detecting in cemeteries. In contrast, others, such as Texas and New York, have laws that allow it under certain circumstances.

In addition to state and local laws, the cemetery’s policies may also restrict or prohibit metal detecting. It is important to check with the cemetery or the local authorities to determine whether metal detecting is allowed in a particular cemetery.

Overall, while it is possible that metal detecting may be allowed in some cemeteries under certain circumstances, it is generally considered to be a sensitive and potentially disrespectful activity, and it may be prohibited or restricted in many cases. It is important to check the laws and policies of the specific location before attempting to detect metal in a cemetery.

Battles and wars often lead to many casualties and losses. Entire towns and countries were destroyed during those negative events, and many hidden treasures were in the ruins and ground. That includes various types of arms, jewelry, gold, and silver. We are going to explain a few of the different types of cemeteries. While they are virtually the same, a resting place for the dead, some differences exist.

Regular Cemeteries

This term covers all modern cemeteries still in use by the public. Some people had an idea to metal detect in regularly registered cemeteries that are still open and in use. They came there with their equipment. However, the police quickly arrived. That is because, in many states, it is not permitted to metal detect in such areas.

No one would allow you to dig a grave of their loved ones, so the laws in most states prohibit such activity. You can be fined or even sent to jail for such an offense; the penalty would depend on the level of damage.

Even if it is legal in your state it is still just not a good idea to metal detect in a cemetery, especially one that is still open and used regularly. There are different weird stories about such activities. However, the law considers people involved in that kind of business thieves. The graves are the owners’ property, and no one else has the right to take other people’s things.

That’s why it is always suitable to know the laws before starting an adventure. It is a good way to avoid legal problems and stay entirely safe when it comes to that matter. It is also usually not allowed to perform those activities on federal land, including national parks and historical sites.

Both belong to the United States, including all the artifacts that the ground may hide from the eyes of curious visitors. People who try to metal detect there would also be fined or even sent to jail, depending on the level of the offense.

There are, however, areas where you can freely use your metal detector without any worries about the legal aspects of the activity. These include local and state places and BLM lands; check your state’s rules and regulations for your particular destination. It is usually available online, so it is easily accessible, and you should not have any problems finding out all the important details regarding that matter.

Mass Graves

This is where dozens or even hundreds of soldiers were buried after a war or battle. Everyone entirely forgets many such places, and there are sometimes no signs of graves in the area. However, that does not mean mass graves do not exist. Finding some of those places is possible if you carefully investigate the history of battles during the Civil War.

Usually, mass graves are located near the places where the battles took place. The armies of both sides wanted to take care of fallen soldiers. However, they often had not enough resources to create a normal cemetery for that.

The war was still going on, and they needed to act fast and efficiently. Transportation to some distant areas was also impossible during such circumstances, and the risk of different diseases was high.

That’s why they buried the bodies in big holes next to each other. Many of the fallen soldiers were buried in their uniforms. The jewelry, as well as different pieces of weaponry, stayed together with the bodies. Their pockets were sometimes filled with coins, so the items stayed on the ground with them.

It is not an ideal solution to perform metal detecting on a regular cemetery because you might have a problem with the laws, and different penalties are possible, not to mention moral and ethical issues. However, there are normally no issues when searching in open meadows.

Of course, that is outside of the moral or ethical issues that digging on or around a gravesite brings. Still, those who investigate past events can conclude that some meadows were battlefields in the past, so they may also hide traces of such events.

A mass grave from the past is a serious historical discovery that helps us discover more about our past. And some of the hidden treasures might be very valuable since it dates from a distant past. You could still potentially be on protected grounds or federal or state lands where you cannot dig or disturb the area.

It is, of course, important to be psychologically prepared for activities of this type. The exploration can take a while, and you will maybe need to search for days until you find something. Human bones are often found together with the items, so you must be ready to handle such a detection properly. This also assumes you plan to dig that far into the ground since most detectorists normally only dig down a foot or so into the ground.

Forgotten Cemeteries

As mentioned, history is full of interesting events that can date back to the distant past. Time can make various changes and adjustments to the area so that it can also affect tombstones. There are very old cemeteries in uninhabited areas that no one has taken care of for a long period. Time has taken its toll on the area, and the tombstones may not exist anymore.

It is possible to find just some traces of these, or they are no longer visible. Such forgotten cemeteries are sometimes not part of any registry, and no one is even aware that they exist. They might be located in different areas, such as forests, hills, meadows, and mountains.

Some researchers have, however, succeeded in finding some of those places, thanks to different historical reports. They might check all the available records about some particular areas, so if some ghost towns existed there, the chances are high that the forgotten cemetery is also a part of the location.

When you get the exact position of such a place, you can start searching. People often bury their loved ones together with different treasures, so interesting discoveries are possible if you succeed in finding a forgotten cemetery.

They typically have a different history. Some of the forgotten cemeteries are very old and may date hundreds of years later. Mining has, for example, been a very strong industry in the United States from the beginning of the country. Many people were involved in the business in various ways because great incomes were possible.

Miners often created communities such as small villages and towns near the mining areas. They typically lasted until the exploration was finished. Then they moved to some other locations when that happened. Their previous communities became ghost towns.

They stayed empty, and cemeteries from such places were forgotten and abandoned. It is usually not forbidden to use a metal detector in such areas because the cemeteries are not registered at all, which meaning no one knows they exist.

Some of the forgotten cemeteries belonged to natives who lived in the area hundreds of years ago. Their tombstone construction was quite different from those made by the Europeans. They were often developed of different materials, too, so they could be less resistant to extreme weather conditions and the circulation of time. That’s how these cemeteries could disappear more easily when the population left the area.

Some cemeteries could also be destroyed by negative events such as wars and natural disasters. Flooding is, for example, quite common in some areas, and the water can be quite dangerous for objects such as tombstones. Other researchers have already found some of the forgotten cemeteries, so they probably uncovered all the important artifacts from the area, but many still could be out there.

Metal Detecting Equipment

If you do not already have some equipment, you will need some before starting on your adventures. Here is some information to help you get started. Not all metal detectors are the same despite using the same name. The specifications and quality of different models might significantly vary. That’s why it is important to check these before purchasing. You will avoid mistakes during selection in that way.

Some metal detectors might have particular abilities that other models do not possess. For example, some types provide water protection, so you can see them in areas that are not dry. These models are also suitable for exploration during bad weather conditions. Rain and snow cannot harm such devices and can operate normally under those circumstances.

For example, I use the Garratt AT Pro, which is submersible in up to ten feet of water. Or, on the complete end, if you’d like to metal detect while scuba diving, there is the Minelab Excalibur II 1000 Waterproof Detector that can go to underwater depths of up to 200 ft (66m). There are, of course, accessories such as Minilabs’ waterproof headphones or the Garratt AT Pinpointer that is waterproof as well.

The device’s weight is also important during the proper selection, so it is always wise to choose lightweight models. Explorations of the ground usually take a lot of time and energy, and a too-heavy detector may cause various troubles during those moments. That would put additional pressure on your activities, so you would have to involve extra effort to achieve the same results.

372574 KellycoTest 728x90 021519, Treasure Valley Metal Detecting Club

There are also metal detectors more suitable for beginners. You do not need any particular skills to operate some of these, so virtually anyone can perform exploration with some of those models. If you are new to metal detecting, you should focus on some of those models. You will learn faster while using them, and you can later transfer to more developed models.

I started renting a Garrett Ace 200 from my local Tates Rents for about $20 a day to get started on the weekends and practice some before buying my Garratt AT Pro. Any of the Garrett Ace line detectors are perfect, small, and lightweight for any beginner, and they are in the $200~$400 range.

It is also good to know that your investment is safe and protected. That’s a good motivation to purchase metal detectors from a store and producer that provides a long warranty and money-back guarantee.

If anything goes wrong with the device, you can return it to the shop and take your money back. There are a lot of offers on the Internet, and all the important details are visible on the product’s list. KellyCo offers a 30-day hassle-free return policy, and they offer excellent customer support as well.

Chapter 10 – Can a Metal Detector Find Gold Coins?

Go here to read our Beginners Guide To Metal Detecting.

Jason Smith

I am a Marine who now works as a Web Developer. I have five US States left to visit. I like whiskey, wine, and coffee, soaking in hot springs or in my hot tub.

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