1993 TOP SECRET TRICK PAGE
"TOOLS OF THE TRADE"
Most archaeological work, at least in
Europe and North America, relies on the trowel.
The trowel we use looks like this:
As you can see, it is not a regular garden
trowel like the one you might use
when you're planting vegetables, the archaeological
trowel is called a forged
mason's trowel - the main difference is
that it is pointed at the end.
Most archaeologists start with 10 cm.
(4 inch) trowels, but after months
of excavation on hard soil, like at DhRl
16, the blade gets much smaller.
Ask any archaeologist who has done a lot
of excavating and they are
usually proud to show you their collection
of well worn trowels!
To archaeologists, this is a 'cool' thing,
like havinga complete collection
of baseball cards or all the Spice Girls
Trowels are used in many different ways.
The main method of digging
by trowel (trowelling) involves scraping
off a layer of soil
with the edge of the blade and breaking
up the chunky soil with the point.
Use of the trowel usually results in a
clean surface so features (like hearths)
can show up clearly (unless it's raining!!).
Some 'trowellers' who have a lot of experience
are able to
dig very fast with a trowel. Sometimes
a small pick is used,
but these cause more damage than the trowel.
Trowels can also chop through plant
and tree roots,
which can be very handy here on the Northwest
where plants are everywhere.
Once the soil has been trowelled off,
it has to be removed.
Hand shovels are filled with dirt using
the trowel or a brush.
The dirt is then taken in buckets
or wheelbarrows to be dumped
at a safe distance from the excavation.
Before dumping, the dirt is usually
sieved or floated just to make sure that
no archaeological material was missed.
All in all, the trowel is very useful
and well loved by archaeologists.
Sometimes, however, if we are excavating
an object we have to be very careful.
At these times, things like dental
instruments and toothbrushes
come in handy. Even spoons are used
tiny amounts of dirt away from fragile
You see? A lot of the time we don't use
instruments that have
buttons or run out of batteries or break
The good archaeologist knows that sometimes
"less is better"!
Why don't you try it out in your own backyard?
Pick a little area and clear the grass
and soil away, layer by layer.
Use a trowel, a spoon and a toothbrush,
see if you can find
a beautiful rock buried underground!
Take it inside, wash it off, put it beside
your bed and have
sweet dreams of becoming an archaeological
Just a hint though: Only excavate a very
small area in your backyard, or you might get in big trouble! When I was
younger, my parents thought that I was ripping up the backyard and the
neighbours thought we had a crazy dog that dug holes everywhere!
Little did they know, that I was just on my way to being a good archaeological