Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tools of the Trade

As we have been taking a break from Port Tobacco to attend to other projects, the blog this week will not be highlighting any particular artifacts or information directly related to the site. We will be delving into Port Tobacco material again as we begin working on the report for the sites included in the Preserve America grant (the Swann house, the area April and her students worked on over the summer, and the Union encampment site. Be sure to keep an eye on the blog for posts on our progress and any interesting finds. Until then, I present you with...Tools of the Trade, a segment on the tools we use in the field of archaeology! Surely you have seen or used these tools down at Port Tobacco, as well as at other archaeological sites you have worked on. Today I bring you the shovel and the spade!

While a trowel may be the first tool that comes to mind when considering the fine detail work in the field, most sites require the use of a trusty shovel long before you begin to trowel. A shovel is a crucial companion when digging shovel test pits, and also comes in handy when moving large amounts of dirt out of a test unit.

In the field, it is important to make sure you call a shovel a shovel and a spade a spade. When we refer to a shovel, we are referring to that common tool with a pointed end and a slightly curved blade (see the image to the left). These are excellent for excavating shovel test pits, removing large quantities of soil from a unit, working in gravelly soils, and splitting those obnoxious roots that cut across a unit. A spade differs from a shovel in that it is flat, enabling you to create a unit with a nice straight wall. A spade (see the image to the right) may not be the best for lifting and moving soil, but they are excellent when working in a test unit as their flat edge prevents you from digging unevenly, which can mix different strata. Of course, both shovels and spades come in different lengths and sizes, which is important when considering what type of work you are going to be doing.

So, next time you are out in the field you should know whether you need to reach for a shovel or a spade (that is, if you did not know already!)



Anne said...

Don't forget how useful shovels are for backfilling!

Scott said...

Don't forget how useful a Bobcat is for backfilling!