ology logo

Tools OF THE Trade

trowel, magnetometer, glue, screen

Hi! I'm David Hurst Thomas and I'm an archaeologist. I went to St. Catherine Island in Georgia in search of a lost Spanish mission.

Hundreds of years ago, the Spanish built missions for the Indians who lived in North America. Missionaries came to spread Christianity and to offer food and aid. Today, many of these missions are archaeological sites. They provide clues about how Europeans and Indians interacted with one another.

Like many kids in California, I visited these mission sites. When I grew up, I found out there were even more missions in the southeastern U.S. But no one seemed to know much about them.

The last account of the mission on St. Catherines Island was in 1687. How do you find a place that's been lost for over 300 years?

aerial view of small island

St. Catherines Island is located off the coast of Georgia.

Like all scientists, archaeologists have a special set of tools that help us do our work. Some tools like trowels , magnetometers , and total stations, are used in the field, where we excavate sites in search of clues. Tools like microscopes are used in the lab, where we examine what we find. Experts and local people are also valuable sources of information.

It took lots of tools (and many years), but my team discovered the lost mission. Want to hear how we did it?  

Play this game and I will tell you the whole story!


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Image Credits:

All photos: courtesy of AMNH, David Hurst Thomas, and Lori Pendleton; Illustrations: Eric Hamilton