Archaeology Field Kit Update

So I’m moving out of my storage unit in three hours, trying to finish a presentation for my department, and jet lagged beyond belief…why not blog? In light of John’s nice post about his broken trowel (psst, get a WHS next time) and Terry Brock’s love of kit nerdery, I thought I’d update a bit about the tools of the trade. Sorry for the bad photos–I was in a hurry to pack everything in England.

This past year in Qatar I made a few needed adjustments. My old field boots died after many years of service and I wanted a pair of boots that would last just as long as the last pair. It’s just wasteful to get disposable shoes that you have to replace all the time. On Michael Smith’s excellent advice, I bought a pair of Red Wing chukkas for the field. I have a pair of steel-toed work boots that I use on commercial sites, but the Red Wings are nice to wear in the desert and are okay for walking around in as well. There is a substantial downside though–they have to be regularly oiled and polished.  An added bonus for archaeology is that they have virtually no tread and so you can sneak in and out of a clean trench without leaving a trace. They still seem to have a decent amount of grip though–I was hiking on exposed rock ridges in the Rocky Mountains and they didn’t let me down. I bought a size too small and they’ve stretched out nicely.

While most archaeologists will tell you that it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen, I don’t really hear much about another piece of vital protection: a good “real” pair of sunglasses. I love cheap thrift store sunglasses, but they are actually a very bad idea if you are out in the sun for any length of time. While price is not always an indicator of how well the sunglasses will protect you, try to go for sunglasses that are made for skiing or snowboarding with 100% UV filter and polarizing lenses. These Von Zipper sunglasses have both of those and are “impact resistant”–they’ve fallen off my head many times and have endured a lot of general abuse. They were also big enough to serve as goggles during sandstorms–at least until I managed to get my real goggles on my head.

My old stationery bag was also on the way out. The zipper had started to rust and rip free of the metal mesh. I find that metal mesh bags work the best for stationery. You can see through them and the dirt just falls through. They are a bit of an oddity though–my last bag came with a package of pantyhose and my new bag on the right (given to me by my wonderful in-laws) had Body Shop shampoo in it. After all of this product placement I think I should get sponsored or something. Too bad I’m too lazy to set up affiliate links.

Sadly I left my trowel on the top of a wall in Qatar–the second one I’ve lost this year.  Nothing like showing up to excavations with a shiny new trowel to make you look like a noob. Oh well.

These Boots

I’ve had these boots for years and they’ve climbed volcanos in Nicaragua, gone down abandoned show caves in Texas, skipped around the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, through deserts and mangroves and over ancient lava on countless adventures. They’ve been slung over my shoulder in $7 hotels, forgotten in unmarked cabs, and sleepily pulled onto my feet over and over again. The treads are almost invisible, the cracks along my toes formed while I was crouching over yet another piece of archaeology, the laces replaced, at last count, six times. Once with yellow kite string.

They actually hurt my feet now, these boots. But they’ve held up over the years. I’ve tried Clark’s desert boots, and while they’re great for photography and for sensitive archaeology, they didn’t stand up well to rocks and to desert sand. Lots of archaeologists just buy the cheapest thing and then throw them away, but I’ve kept these boots for years and they’ve served me well. When I wore out a pair of chucks, I’d sling them over a powerline–the only proper way to “bury” a pair of shoes that saw me through punk rock shows and love and disappointment.

It’s time. The laces have lost their aglets and are fraying in the middle. The cracks in the leather fill them up with piles of dirt and rocks. The treads have no purchase and are slippery on the rocks.

The boots are done, and so is the season here in Qatar. I’ll be back in the Bay Area in less than a week, and then at the SAAs, being an academic archaeologist again. Tomorrow, I think I’ll tie the laces together, throw them over my shoulder one last time & find them a proper place to live in the desert.