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.

Definition: a small handheld tool with a flat pointed blade
Purpose: used for scraping away dirt to uncover fragile objects
Other common digging tools: shovels, dental picks, scoops, toothbrushes, paintbrushes
Cool fact: Archaeologists often carve their initials into the handles of their trowels.

Image credits: David Hurst Thomas: courtesy of AMNH.