• NCR Regional Archeology Program

    NCR Regional Archeology Program


Tools of the Trade


Equipment used to locate and excavate sites can be as simple as a whisk broom or as complex as high tech electronic instruments. They can be as large as a backhoe or as exacting as a dental pick. Few of the tools used during an archeological excavation were created specifically for archeology. Archeologists modify and make use of survey equipment, such as compasses, flagging, and field tape; construction instruments, like shovels and masonry trowels; and common household items, such as dust pans, string, paint brushes, and folding rules.

The process of excavation results in the destruction of an archeological site. As a result, information about location, soil color, soil texture, and artifacts recovered must be painstakingly recorded. Surveying instruments such as theodolites or transits, and plumb bobs allow for precise locational recording. Measuring tapes, string, and survey flags outline an excavation area, providing borders to guide field archeologists. Digging is accomplished using masonry trowels, shovels, and even occasionally spoons, depending on the depth and composition of the soil layer. Soil is typically screened through wire mesh, occasionally with the aide of running water in order to release artifacts from the dirt. All data, including soil color and texture, location, and artifacts collected are recorded both on paper and film.

The field phase of archeology is only the beginning. Each day digging usually leads to several days in the laboratory examining the artifacts and writing about these discoveries. Only with careful excavation techniques and thorough record-taking, can these artifacts teach us about the past.