BAR 40:01, Jan/Feb 2014
Tools of the Trade
Archaeological fieldwork evolves from removing tons of soil to meticulous examination, and the tools reflect this progressive change. At the start of the season, volunteers cut through topsoil using pickaxes (1), then scrape the loose soil into buckets using square-bladed hoes called turias (held by Jessie Feito in the second photo). As the excavation surface lowers, team members use handpicks (3) and patishes (4) with 12-inch handles to articulate architecture and create walls that support balks between excavation squares. These serve as a map of already-excavated strata. The sharp edges of a trowel (5) cleanly scrape excavated surfaces, revealing discolorations and patterns in the soil. When archaeologists work with a delicate find, they use trowels, handpicks and patishes to remove soil around the sides of the find before articulating the artifact itself with non-destructive brushes and 10-inch wooden skewers (6).