Since it’s now my third day on the site, I feel like I’m obviously qualified to shed a little light on the toolkit of a junior archaeologist. All of the pictures are from my personal collection of items, aside from the tools and technology actually used on site, which explains the glamour shots on our host family’s window sill. Stay tuned for the second post in this series (An Archaeologist’s Beauty Tool Kit) which I’ll try and get ready for tomorrow!
Arguably the most essential tool for a budding archaeologist is their trowel. This is my personal one, a Marshalltown 4-inch London Style, which you can find here. As you can tell, it’s already encountered some pretty muddy territory. It came recommended to us by our field school instructors, and seems to be the standard for excavations. To use, hold horizontally at a 45 degree angle and gently sweep the dirt back towards you in a line. Always try and work in equal depth, so that everything is level with the same soil type. We’re definitely starting off slowly, but more experienced archaeologists can fly through the soil with an expert troweling technique.
Preferably latex coated, gloves help protect your hands from anything you may encounter on a dig, whether it be creepy-crawlies, bits of metal that can cause tetanus, or just general dirt and grime. For example, on our first day at the site, we were tasked with uncovering tarp from a section that hadn’t been worked on since last year. There was heavy mud and rocks, burrowing bugs and spiders, and even patches of grass that had made their home in the holes of the coverings. Needless to say, it was kind of gross. Gloves certainly came in handy when rolling up 50 pounds of old tarp! They’re also great for helping scoop up the extra piles of dirt that collect from your troweling, and for encountering some unexpected items while excavating (like dog poop…). I got mine from an Irish home and garden store called Woodie’s, but these are similar.
Proper footwear is essential for having a good experience at the site. There are a lot of different options to choose from, like hiking boots, work boots, or sturdy sneakers that are waterproof and have hard soles. Some notable brands that come to mind are Keens and Merrells (like mine), but the most important part is that they’re closed toed, built to last, and comfortable. Nothing is worse than crouching to expose part of a medieval wall and hitting a blister right where it hurts.
Guess what? It’s sunny on a dig, no matter where you are, or what season you’re in. Even though it was 57 degrees Fahrenheit this morning in Ireland, it happens to be situated right underneath a huge hole in the ozone layer, and fun fact: you can still be at risk for skin cancer from a sunburn in your hairline. Your scalp will get burned, because you will forget to put sunscreen there (guilty), so protection like mine, from Australian company Wallaroo, that has both UV protection and Velcros around your ponytail is a life saver for those of us with longer hair. See also: sunscreen, and we expect it to be slathered over every exposed body part you can find, including tops of ears and behind knees. I like this kind from Babyganics, because it’s mineral based, has SPF 50, and it’s fragrance free. Plus, if it’s good enough for a newborn, it’s good enough for me.
Although not all climates require such things (re: most African or Middle Eastern excavations in the dead of summer), it’s always smart to bring rain gear. That includes but isn’t limited to rain boots and a rain coat, and if you’re really fancy, rain pants. My rain coat, a trooper that I’ve had since at least freshman year of high school, is from REI and has seen me through many a storm. Musts: a detachable hood and plenty of pockets. As for rain boots, any old ones will do, and they don’t have to be expensive. Depending on preference, you can go pro and buy knee length ones, but mid calf works just as well. However, I wouldn’t recommend ankle length, just because it’s a muddy disaster waiting to happen, and no one wants to walk around squishing mud beneath their toes.
So that’s it! That’s an amateur archaeologist’s toolkit, minus all the levels, buckets, kneelers, shovels, tents, and everything else that stores on site. Tomorrow I’ll be tackling travel sized makeup and minimal-style beauty for those of us who still want to expend a little extra effort, even in the field!