Archaeological Kit – a few of my favorite things

IMG_4180A post-Valentine’s day homage to a few of the tools of the trade.

* I love the old-school wooden folding ruler that I keep in my kit. There is a satisfying stiffness to it, a reliability, as I creak those old joints open to draw a fire pit or a wall. I draw alone most of the time instead of having someone call out the measurements for me, and having a wooden ruler that stays in place helps speed the process along. It’s also handy if you are working in a gale–I had two lines break on me last year, one had the temerity to also pull out the site datum it was attached to as well. My hand tapes die fairly regularly as well, and my latest one is already slow to retract, grinding unevenly through grit.

* Blank tyvek labels with reinforced holes. Invariably dig directors and finds managers make finds tags with set spaces for finds, bemoaning the forgetfulness of diggers in labeling up. These tags get more and more elaborate, until they’re huge quarter-sheets of paper, two-sided and you spend all day replicating your context sheet on the stupid tag. It’s a poor finds system that needs much more than a site code, context number, date, and initials of the digger on the tag. And artifact tags that aren’t tyvek? Are you kidding? Ridiculous.

* Properly sized nails are always in short supply. I get hollered at every time I steal them out of Dan’s kit bag.

* 6H pencils–I have tried the mechanical pencils with 6H lead, but it seems too soft and smudgy to be 6H. For the uninitiated, they’re for writing on permatrace, another of my favorite things. Speaking of stealing, I love stealing stationery the most, especially if it has another archaeologist’s name written on it. It’s a momento. It’s a bad habit and people get really angry, but I’ll only steal your stationery if I like you.

* Small, well-wrapped bits of string. There’s an almost unholy reverence for string among archaeologists–good, non-elastic, sturdy string is difficult to find and usually runs out or gets forgotten. Good string is carefully tended, never cut unless it’s absolutely necessary, and glorious when you realize that you have the perfect length. Yes, string.

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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