Archaeologists use many kinds of tools when they excavate, from large shovels to toothbrushes. But the trowel is their most common tool. A trowel is a small handheld spade. It has a flat blade like a pancake spatula, and often has a pointed tip. Trowels are used for cleaning surfaces and carefully exposing new levels of soil. They help uncover fragile artifacts without harming them.

Image credits: main image, © AMNH/Eric Hamilton; quote, David Hurst Thomas © AMNH.