In our “What’s in your dig bag?” series, we asked working field archaeologists what they carry with them out in the field. We wanted to know what gear they love and what items might be unique to them.
Name: Eric Welch
Position: Lecturer, University of Kansas
Digging Since: 2006
Current Excavation: Co-director of Area F, Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan Excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath
Hat: I’m a baseball hat guy. In my mind, the Indiana Jones hat is reserved for people who have earned tenure. Traditionally my hat has been the same old Red Sox hat, but the last two summers I’ve worn a custom hat embroidered with the letter F.
Trowel: Marshalltown, wood handle. 4.5 inches.
Multitool: SOG Powerlock
Not everyone on the dig needs to carry all the tools, but as a supervisor, if I don’t have it, who will? My multitool has cut wire, fixed loose screws, and even assisted in a tire change on our tool trailer.
Watch: Garmin Tactix
Okay, it’s not in my bag, but I consider my watch to be a part of my dig gear. For a field watch, I want something that’s sturdy with a backlight, and alarm. For the longest time that was my $10 Wal-Mart watch. Recently I upgraded (significantly) to the Garmin Tactix (I’m a poor archaeologist—it was a gift). At first I thought having a GPS watch was overkill, but some of the features already proved useful in the field last summer. And I happen to know the director of neighboring excavation sports a Garmin watch and uses it to track his daily movement around the tell.
Ultra Fine Point Retractable Sharpie
As far as I’m concerned, there is only one pen suitable for writing tags in the field. It is the ultra-fine point retractable Sharpie from Sanford. No caps to remove. Just click and write. I think I’m heading into my 5th season with these pens and will never go back to something that requires a cap.
College T-Shirt in a Gallon Zipper Bag
I am now in the habit of carrying a t-shirt from my current institution in a freezer bag (to keep it clean). This is a practical thing because sometimes things happen on the tell that might require a clean shirt for someone. Secretly, the real purpose in keeping a school shirt around is so I can throw it on when we have the find of the century. You know, the kind of pictures that land you on the school website… where donors see your project… and the school logo… at the same time…
I keep a water-proof, dust proof camera with me, but increasingly find myself using my iPhone 5 to snap pictures and short videos in the field. I also keep my own North arrow in my bag.
I keep a flashlight and a headlamp in my bag at all times. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself on the tell as the sun was setting. These don’t add a lot of weight and most of the time I forget they’re even there. But if I need them, I’m prepared.
I always keep a few granola bars in my bag in case I get stuck on the tell doing extra tasks and will be late to lunch. I’ve found that these also come in handy when volunteers aren’t feeling 100% and just need something extra on their stomachs.
Baby wipes have so many applications on the dig. I’ve seen them help in hygiene emergencies and first aid situations, but most of the time they’re nice for just cleaning up. Whether it’s chopping up a watermelon at fruit break, or just wiping your face before you get on the bus, it feels good to be clean. One of the fastest ways to make friends on a bus is to start handing out cool, clean wipes to tired volunteers! And I still have a small bit of joy watching first time volunteers realize how dirty they are. Baby wipes are nice for that first nose blow…
I’m fortunate to work with people who think archaeology should be fun. I’ve learned that having a few toys on hand can help keep the team’s morale up. Last summer I borrowed a few of my daughter’s inflatable dinosaurs to help excavate some Iron I floors. “Larry” was only $1 and packed perfectly flat until the day I breathed life into him.
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