This paper presents a critique of current methods of sampling and analyzing soils for metals in archaeological prospection. Commonly used methodologies in soil science are shown to be suitable for archaeological investigations, with a concomitant improvement in their resolution. Understanding the soil-fraction location, concentration range, and spatial distribution of autochthonous (native) soil metals is shown to be a vital precursor to archaeological-site investigations, as this is the background upon which anthropogenic deposition takes place. Nested sampling is suggested as the most cost-effective method of investigating the spatial variability in the autochthonous metal concentrations. The use of the appropriate soil horizon (or sampling depth) and point sampling are critical in the preparation of a sampling regime. Simultaneous extraction is proposed as the most efficient method of identifying the location and eventual fate of autochthonous and anthropogenic metals, respectively. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.