What Tools Do Archaeologists Use? 15 Essential Tools

Archaeologist Tool

If you have an interest in becoming an archaeologist, knowing what tools do archaeologists use can help you progress in your career. We will list 15 important tools for archaeologist in this guide.

Regardless of the type of excavation, an archaeologist’s toolbox typically consists of a few basic tools. Shovels, trowels, spades, brushes, sieves, and buckets are some of the more obvious or common tools that an archaeologist may carry with them to most digs.

In this article, we examine what tools an archaeologist needs and the various equipment these experts employ when excavating and digging.

15 Tools for An Archaeologist

Some tools widely used by an archaeologist include:

1. Trowel

A trowel is among the most fundamental tools used by archaeologists. In order to carefully and controllably remove the soil, archaeologists use small flat trowels to record the context of artifacts. Archaeologists can be very particular about their trowels, preferring particular brands, designs, handle shapes, or levels of wear. The use has left one side of my trowel very worn. When I use a newer trowel, I definitely notice a difference.

2. Shovel and Large Pick

Shovel and Large Pick

An archaeologist will use shovels and big picks. Archaeologists use a shovel and a pick to remove a layer of soil or debris. The pick facilitates soil removal and soil loosening. This device can be used by an archaeologist to create a fresh trench and scrape off the topmost layer of soil. By carefully using these tools, the archaeologist can avoid damaging the recently discovered layer below. This guards against harm to any hidden artifacts or paintings.

3. Brush

Large brooms and small paintbrushes are among the brushes that have been discovered on archeological sites. Small brushes that resemble straws are useful for cleaning and removing rocks from uneven surfaces. A paintbrush can be used by an archaeologist to accomplish delicate tasks and conduct light cleaning without moving or harming the excavation artifacts. For instance, an archaeologist can use a paintbrush to articulate a delicate piece of artwork that has been covered in mud to keep it from being harmed. The harder surface can be cleaned by these experts using larger brooms.

4. Dustpan

Archaeologists prefer to use dustpans at excavation sites where a shovel is not permitted. The excavation site can be cleaned up with the help of these equipment. A dustpan is typically like the ones everyone keeps around the house. Dustpans may seem insignificant, but they are useful for removing soil from excavation sites.

5. Light Detection and Ranging

LiDAR is a valuable tool because it enables archaeologists to map and measure objects and structures that are still hidden. Thousands of thousands of light pulses are directed toward the ground in order for the device to function. In open areas like floodplains and agricultural landscapes, the archaeologist can also use this tool to locate and map archaeological evidence. LiDAR enables archaeologists and mappers to examine both artificial and natural environments with accuracy, pliability, and precision. It’s interesting to note that while terrestrial LiDAR offers a thorough scan of features on the ground, bathymetric LiDAR assists these professionals in gathering information from underwater.

6. Compass

Although digital GPS and smartphones are commonplace, there are times when you might need to read an old map, determine which direction a site faces, or be in an area with poor reception. A compass is a necessity in your pack if, like me, you struggle to recognize the cardinal directions.

7. Strings and Stakes

An archaeologist creates an area grid using strings and stakes before beginning excavation at a site. They divide them into various squares and set stakes at regular intervals into the ground. Then, to make small squares on the ground, archaeologists tie strings to each stake. Every square can be determined with the aid of the coordinates. Archaeologists can use this map to mark the precise location of each artifact’s presence.

8. Shaker Screens

Shaker screens, which have wire mesh of 1/4 or 3/4 inches, are used to remove soil from artifacts. The artifact and soil are loaded onto the shaker screen. The artifacts, even the tiny ones, are left behind because shaking causes the soil to pass through the mesh structure. The discovered artifact is put in a bag and labeled with the archaeologist’s name, the site, and the date it was discovered.

9. Pencil

You’ll need to use pencils to mark things up and erase them. You can make corrections in pen after the artifact list, profile drawing, etc. is complete. Write the initial draft in pencil. Long-term, it will spare you headaches.

9. Camera

Take as many pictures as you can; after the excavation is finished, the majority of the artifacts won’t be there anymore, so you want to make sure you have accurate records of where everything was and how it appeared.

10. Record Apparatus

To document their discoveries, archaeologists use recording equipment. These experts create a thorough recording once the excavation is finished. Sketched or taken pictures are examples of these. The high contrast brought on by the sun’s shadowing frequently necessitates the use of auxiliary lighting in order to ensure high-quality imagery.

11. Digging Tools

While some tools are used to dig, others are used to clear away the waste left over from excavation. When removing and fracturing extremely densely compacted soil, a mattock or pickaxe is a common digging tool. In addition to picks, forks, hoes, rakes, and wheelbarrows, archaeologists frequently use other digging instruments. The wheelbarrow aids in moving the unwanted soil or debris into the disposal area.

12. Fine Excavation Tools

Because they use delicate tools to dig small holes, these professionals frequently carry out the work in a manner similar to a dentist. The delicate excavation tool set includes a small trowel, a leaf trowel that aids in finishing delicate work, a foam kneeling mat, measuring tape, a plumb bob, comfortable gloves, a magnifying glass, and a calliper set. In addition to these instruments, they also employ dental picks and scalpels for the excavation of finer artifacts during dental surgery.

13. Bucket Auger

A bucket auger is a practical archaeological tool that aids in the discovery and exploration of buried sites. To get to an archaeological site, the instrument uses lengthy steel pipe sections. A bucker auger typically makes large holes, which aids in quickly reaching the buried site. When working in floodplain environments, experts employ the auger tool.

14. Water

Drink plenty of water because dehydration can have serious consequences wherever you work.

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Tools Used by Archaeologists for Surveying Sites

These experts conduct surveys using a variety of tools aside from excavation sites. From traditional and electronic compasses to GPS devices, an archaeologist requires different tools for surveying the site.

Total Station Theodolite is an example of a cutting-edge tool these experts might use. It calculates the archaeology site’s angle, slope, distance, and elevation. These experts frequently gather information, record it, and map excavation sites using the Geographical Information System (GIS).

Tools Used by Marine Archaeologists

A marine archaeologist needs specialized tools in order to recover artifacts, even though they use similar tools to those of a landscape archaeologist. For instance, these professionals might use a special vacuum extraction hose for sifting underwater sample collection. These hoses draw the seafloor to the surface. If they want to conduct underwater digs, they might use an exosuit.

Exosuits are the mechanical equipment that enables archaeologists to go deeper and stay submerged for longer periods of time. A marine archaeologist can find previously undiscovered ancient artifacts by using these suits. Additionally, underwater recording findings would call for specialized camera gear. Strong artificial lighting is frequently carried by divers who run the risk of electrocution.

Conclusion on What Tools Do Archaeologists Use

Archaeologists use many different tools when surveying and excavating sites. It all depends on which ones are required for a particular dig, and the tools are continually improving as technology advances.

Additionally, the tools needed may vary depending on the type of archaeologist. For instance, a fire archaeologist needs protective clothing against heat, and an underwater archaeologist needs scuba gear.

Read More:


How Do Archaeologists Work?

Archaeologists ask questions and develop hypotheses. They choose a dig site based on the available evidence, then choose where to dig using scientific sampling methods. They keep track of what they see, categorize it, and interpret it. They then divulge their findings to the general public and other scientists.

What Do Archaeologists Use to Study the Past?

Archaeologists use artifacts and features to learn how people lived in specific times and places.

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