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Some days I pretend I'm Indiana Jones. Other days, I make videos about pretending to be Indiana Jones. 

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© 2020 Dig it With Raven

What to Pack for an Archaeological Dig

February 6, 2020

 

 

As I did some last minute field work this past January, it gave me the perfect opportunity to create a packing list for everything you'll ever need on an archaeological excavation! So what I have done here, is separate the list into four sections such as Tools, Health and Wellness, Clothing and Miscellaneous. THEN, I've gone ahead and created three packing lists for you based on things like your budget and luggage space. You've got everything from your bare bones dig, to the most luxurious time you can have, considering you'll be digging in the dirt day in and day out for the better part of a month (or even more!)

 

* Just a quick note before we get started. I have not included normal packing essentials such as socks and underwear, pyjamas, toiletries, etc. These are all normal essentials with all kinds of travel and pretty obvious things that you'd be grabbing first. This list is solely dedicated to things you'll need specifically on site. Have fun!

 

 

Category 1: Tools of the Trade

 

 

Trowel

Most archaeologists are very partial to their own trowels on site. Most digs and field schools in particular will have tools for everyone, but it's always nice to have your Ol' Faithful around. There are different sizes and brands for everyone, but popular ones are the Marshalltown Archaeology Trowel (click here) and the WHS Archaeology (click here). Both are great, just a bit different in size, so it's all your own prerogative!

 

 

 

 

 

Swiss Army Knife

 

 I LOVE having my Swiss Army Knife on site! You never know when you're going to need it, or when someone else will. Whether it be for cutting some rope, using the screwdriver, anything, it'll always come in handy! Let's not forget the oh-so useful corkscrew and bottle opener as well for the evening activities ;). There are so many different types of knives out there, but the standard one will provide you with everything you need (click here).

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Water bottle

It's SUPER important to stay hydrated on site, so a refillable water bottle is of the utmost importance! You are going to be working in the hot sun for hours, so you need to make sure you're taking care of yourself. Pack one, and don't forget to keep drinking! 

 

Notebook

Taking notes on what you're finding, stratigraphical layers and changes, and any documenting structures is very important while on site. It's really good to have a notebook with you to write down all these things for your own records, as well as for everyone else if they need it. 

 

Pencils and Pens/ coloured pens, sharpies

A pencil case filled with all the things needed to take notes is also needed! Pack it with pens, pencils, coloured pencils for drawing sections and layers, and don't forget the Sharpies!! Sharpies are the keys to everyone's heart on site. They always go missing and are always needed. If you have one or two of those on you, you'll make friends fast. 

 

Dig bag

You are going to need to carry all this stuff on site with you, so grab yourself a backpack and fill it with all the things you need on site! 

 

Camera

If you aren't a trench supervisor, you probably won't need to have your own camera on site. That being said, it can be nice to have. Just don't sacrifice bag space for a camera you won't use, and don't pack a camera if you're afraid of damaging it.

 

Dental tools

 

This may be the conservator in me talking, but I cannot live without bringing 3 or 4 dental tools with me on a dig. They're great for careful excavation and cleaning of pottery, etc. If you are not familiar with working with them, or are maybe not so dextrous, I suggest using bamboo sticks instead as they are potentially less damaging to the artefacts than these are. So I put these under the heading "for trained professionals only". 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

String

Any sort of strong twine would be very good to have on site to help map out squares, etc. But this is also useful to make your own laundry drying lines, or just tie things down if needed. It's light and doesn't take up much room in your suitcase, so why not?

 

 

Other useful things that might come in handy are:

Tweezers (for small or delicate finds)
Tape measure

Soft brushes (for more careful excavation or finer layers)

Binder rings

Bamboo picks

North arrow (for photo documentation)

Photo card

Pocket compass

Hand loop (for looking closer at pottery)

 

 

Category 2: Clothing

 

Hat

YOU MUST COVER YOURSELF FROM THE SUN AT ALL TIMES!! Your hat not only makes you look like a bad-ass explorer, it may indeed save your life. Covering your head is your first line of defense from heat stroke, sunburn, and all the other unfortunate things that come with overheating.  It doesn't matter what you're using, a baseball cap, a straw hat, Indiana Jones hat, head scarf... honestly, anything. Just cover up! 

 

Sturdy shoes

 

 

This can be dependent on where you are digging (for example, in Oman we dug barefoot because we were digging in sand with some very delicate layers). Most of the time though, you will be wanting some good excavation shoes. I like having them more for safety and ankle support. The picutre I put here are the exact shoe that I wear and I personally love them (click here). They make me feel like Lara Croft too, so that always helps put me in the excavation mood!

 

 

 

 

 

Clothes that cover you- with LOTS of pockets

 

 

Truth bomb time- you may think that since you're excavating in the sun, in a nice warm place that you'll need to wear shorts and tank tops all day long to survive. NOPE, the reality is that the more you cover yourself from the sun, the cooler you'll be! This is a win-win because you'll also save on sunscreen! I'm very partial to long, cargo pants like these because they have all the pockets, which I'm always using on site. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gloves

 

These are not mandatory, but it's always good to have a pair of gloves on you to protect your hands, especially if you blister easily, or if your hands are getting sore or tired. They also help if you're doing heavy lifting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buff/bandana

 

I love my buffs! They're great for everything and can be worn a million ways. I always wear one on my wrist to protect my watch and for when I get sweaty. I usually also wear one as a headband to keep my hair in check, and have one to put around my neck for extra cooling or sun protection. Also it makes for a good face mask if you're dealing with a dusty environment. I suggest getting a cheaper multipack like these because they get dirty really quickly and need to be washed often. 

 

 

 

Flip flops

Nothing feels better after a day of digging than taking off your dig shoes and letting those piggies breathe! 

 

Sweater for early mornings

Since you'll be getting up before the crack of dawn, it can get chilly in the morning. Having a light sweater to keep you warm in the morning before the sun comes up, or for late at night is vital. 

 

Sports bras

This is for the ladies! Digging in with a sports bra over a regular bra wins every time. You'll thank me later.

 

Sunglasses

9 times out of 10, you'll be digging in some pretty sunny areas. Make sure you'll be able to see at the end of the day

 

Other useful things that might come in handy are:

Extra socks

Bathing suit

Fancy clothes and shoes

 

 

Category 3: Health and Wellness

 

Sunscreen

You'll be in the sun all day, so you need to protect yourself! Bring more sunscreen than you think you'll need, and slather it on every chance you get! Don't do archaeology for the tan, it's not a sexy one anyways.

 

Toilet paper

 

 

 

 

 

Having some toilet paper with you on site is a life saver when you need to go to the bathroom. There are usually no bathrooms on site so you'll be digging holes and squatting. Bring some in a plastic 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bug repellent

This is dependent on where you are, but there are usually bugs, and if you're like me, the bugs will find you and never let go. Having bug bites and being itchy while digging is the most uncomfortable thing, so spray this everywhere. 

 

First aid kit

 

These are always useful to have because everyone is working with tools, in grueling conditions. Pack you first aid kit with lots of pain medication, bandages, tensor tape, scissors, gauze, tweezers, and anything else you might need! Play it safe out there, fam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snacks- nuts, granola bars, etc

I love to snack, and because I don't eat meat, sometimes it can be a bit difficult to get all the nutrition I need in countries that don't quite understand the concept of vegetarian/veganism. Bring yourself your favourite granola bars or trail mix for in between meals. 

 

Rehydration packs

An archaeological dig is essentially like going to the gym for 6-8 hours. You're going to be exerting yourself and sweating like there's no tomorrow. That means that dehydration is a big risk! This is especially important for vegans because we aren't getting salts back in the same amount as others. Save yourselves and bring a few hydration packs like these in order to get your body working properly again! 

 

Baby wipes/ Anti-bac gel

I love bringing wet wipes on site with me to just wipe my hands before breakfasts and snack times, but they're also really good for at the end of the day to wipe your face, neck etc. It really feels fresh and helps you feel more human until you can get to a shower. Everyone judges me for them... until I give them one. 

 

She-Wee

 

Ladies, this one is just for us! I love my She-Wee so much, I will wave it around the site in front of everyone, singing its glory. I always say it is the best 12 dollars I ever spent, and I will take that statement with me to my grave. This way, you don't have to pop a squat, and you can finally feel what it's like to pee like a man. Let me tell you... you feel powerful!

 

 

Lotion

You're gonna get really dried out working with all that dirt and sand, so keeping everything moisturized is vital. 

 

Knee brace/ Knee pads/ Ankle brace/ Wrist brace

This may just be me, but I am a very broken person and require all of these things. If you need them, take them!!

 

Sleeping bag

Not all digs will be providing you with full bedding, so bringing your own sleeping bag is really important. It's also always nice to have an extra layer just in case you're cold at night! What's awesome is nowadays you can get really compact ones like this one so it doesn't have to take up half of your suitcase!

 

Quick dry towel

I prefer these microfibre towels to regular ones while traveling because they dry quickly, and don't take up too much space in your suitcase.

 

Travel yoga mat

 

A friend of mine brought a travel yoga mat on site with her last year and it blew my mind! This was on the top of my Christmas list this year, and will now be going with me everywhere! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other useful things that might come in handy are:

Extra hair ties

Earplugs

 

Category 4: Miscellaneous

 

Mini speaker

Music is vital on a dig! Whether it be both while digging, and afterwards while chilling and hanging out with everyone. It's great to share music, party, find the song of the dig, and to hook up to computers to watch movies! Even something small and mighty like this is perfect for the occasion and it even clips on to your bag for easy travel! 

 

Deck of cards

Always good to have something to pass the time. There's always a card game that everyone likes to play! 

 

 

Fancy phone pouch

 

You can use a plastic zip bag to protect your phone from the dust and dirt while on site, but now there are these new fancy high tech pouches as well. Take your pick! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

External battery

If you use your phone as much as I do, you're gonna need some extra juice while travelling. Always good to have some extra power with you just in case you find yourself in a place without a plug. 

 

Laptop

This is hit or miss with some people. It takes up a lot of space so if you're not going to use it, don't waste it! There's enough that you'll be doing on site and to be honest, you won't be using it half as much as you think. Choose wisely!

 

Alright, that's the list! Now, let's get to figuring out how much of it you'll need for yourself! 

 

Packing Level: Bare Bones Dig

 

Tools and Things

Swiss Army Knife

Dig bag

Notebook

Pencils and pens/ coloured pens, sharpies

Refillable water bottle

 

Health and Wellness

Toilet paper

Sunscreen

Bug repellent

First aid kit

Advil


Clothing
Hat
Clothes that cover you- LOTS OF pockets
Sturdy shoes

Sunglasses

 

Packing Level: Pimp Your Dig

 

Tools and Things

Gloves

Trowel

Dental tools

Tape measure

Pocket compass

Hand loop

Brushes

String

Binder rings

Bamboo picks

Tweezers

Camera

 

Health and Wellness

Baby wipes/ Anti-bac gel

She-Wee

Blister bandaids

Lotion

Snacks- nuts, granola bars, etc

Knee brace/ Knee pads

Ankle brace

Wrist brace

Rehydration or salt pack

 

Clothing
Buff/bandana

Flip flops

Sweater for early mornings

Sports bras

Extra socks

 

Misc.

Extra hair ties

Ziploc bag for your phone

Sleeping bag

Quick dry towel

 

Packing Level: The Schliemann Package

 

Tools and Things

North arrow

Photo card

External battery

Laptop

 

Health and Wellness

Laundry soap

Travel yoga mat

 

Clothing

Fancy clothes

Bathing suit

 

Misc.

Fancy phone cover

E-reader

Mini speaker

Deck of cards

 

 

And there you have it, friends! Everything you need and everything you don't need to be well prepared on your archaeological dig. Did I miss anything? Comment below! 

 

 

 

 

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