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Archaeology Equipment: The Tools of the Trade


An archaeologist uses many different tools during the course of an investigation, before, during and after the excavations. The photographs in this essay define and describe many of the everyday tools archaeologists use in the process of conducting archaeology.

This photo essay uses as its framework the typical course of an archaeological excavation conducted as part of a cultural resource management project in the midwestern United States. The photographs were taken in May 2006 at the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist, with the kind assistance of staff there.
Images 1-12 of 23
Office Director readies for the fieldArranging for the Field WorkAccessing background information, this project archaeologist prepares to go into the fieldMaps and Other Background InformationThis pile of excavation equipment is waiting for the next field trip. Ready for the FieldA Total Station transit is a tool that allows archaeologists to make an accurate map. A Mapping Device
Two brand new, neatly sharpened Marshalltown trowelsMarshalltown TrowelsThis trowel is called a plains or corner trowel, and some archaeologists swear by it.Plains TrowelShovels--both round and flat-ended--are as necessary to much field work as a trowel. A Variety of ShovelsA bucket auger is used for testing deeply buried depositsDeep Testing Soils
A coal scoop comes in very handy for moving heaps of dirt from tiny excavation units. The Trusty Coal ScoopA dust pan, like the coal scoop, can come in very handy for removing excavated soil. The Trusty Dust PanA hand-held one-person shaker screen or soil sifter. Soil Sifter or Shaker ScreenAn archaeologist demonstrates the shaker screen (pay no attention to the inappropriate footwear).Soil Sifting in Action
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