by Mr. Duncan Jones
Recently I’ve been trying to consider the history of archaeology itself as I excavate. At some point I realized that I’ve always separated archaeology and history in the sense that archaeology is a method by which history is elucidated but that archaeology is not necessarily a part of history. Human curiosity certainly must be older than recorded history because otherwise there would be no impetus to examine, detail, and preserve all that’s allowed such an extensive account of so many cultures and peoples. Human curiosity has compounded and led our species to dramatic lengths and, accordingly, dramatic achievements, archaeological discoveries not being the least of them. Many careers have been made and passions have been ignited in the field of archaeology, and it’s this component of archaeology I’ve always overlooked—that while archaeology has fed from the past, it has also evolved into the future, and that archaeology as we perform it has developed its methods and crucial historical context as a result of the years archaeology that have come before.
One particular component of many sites that’s always struck me (along with the sites themselves, of course) is the photographs of the excavation, which typically feature archaeologists from bygone centuries with burly mustaches perched below stoic glares, leathery tans, and crisply tucked shirts. From inside the air-conditioned museum, I’ve always felt bad for the poor men and women using their archaic methods in the sweltering Mediterranean summer, but at some point along the line I realized that I must have been tricked because even though we have hot-doggers driving backhoes and flying drones around the site, and a machine that shoots lasers around willy-nilly, the majority of us are just grunts using the same shovels under the same sun… what happened? We’ve had centuries to figure something better out—this is 2015, doing manual labor is passé… Who will do something?
Fortunately, I’m here as archaeology’s savior and though I can’t completely rid us of manual labor, I can make it considerably easier. It turns out that the only difference between me and the grunts of the past is that one of us gets to be immortalized on the wall of a museum and the other can’t grow a mustache. In fact, if the pictures of our excavation were changed to black and white there would be no discernible difference, and so I’m starting with our tools due to their prevalence in both excavation and in pictures so that our work can be expedited and so that our pictures will have some more character in order to compensate for the naked upper lips and lack of stern looks. I’d like to present just some of my innovations that will no doubt shake archaeology; all I ask is that you remember my name (and maybe write it on some checks and send them my way).
Firstly, I’d like to say that the dustpan is a crucial and underrated tool. It’s always served me exceptionally well, and when combined with more tools its potential is unlimited. Observe:
This is the pick-pan, once fully mastered one can spin the tool so that picking and panning alternate and the loose dirt will be removed by the time the pick falls again. With enough thought towards trajectory, you can hit the wheelbarrow from anywhere and not even break picking momentum!
Here’s another dustpan combination that should be self-explanatory. It’s an ideal tool for a sweeping duo and it increases your pick-up range and drop-off range considerably. It can also be used to present things to the trench supervisor with minimal motion.
A model sweeping duo.
I can’t speak enough for the dustpan but this is perhaps my favorite use. As a kneepad, it provides a level and firm surface that saves the discomfort of regular kneeling and is in immediate reach when necessary.
This is one more tool combination, an eight-foot pipe with either a small pick or a trowel for delicate work from a distance. Maybe you’re impeded by a pesky ancient structure or maybe, just maybe, you’ve found a nice place to lounge…
When not loaded, the wheelbarrow provides superb lumbar support, arm rests at perfect height, and even leg rests in the form of handles. It’s superior to any chair in which I’ve ever sat and I could even imagine it becoming the next wave of the healthy-sitting movement for both archaeologists and office-workers alike. Try it sometime!
Thank you for reading this brief summary of what I’ve accomplished in my few idle moments on site. They say necessity is the mother of all invention, but I say that absentmindedly jamming things together and lounging around works just as well. I’m no genius, just a boy trying to offer what he can to a profession that he grew up admiring. Feel free to use any of these innovations in your own excavations and in your daily life. The facial hair, however, you’ll have to grow on your own.