Having been on holiday and not quite back in the flow I decided that this object of the month could be an object from the present day.
It’s a trowel! We are all told when we start digging to get a solid cast WHS 4 inch pointing trowel, no bigger and definitely not a round-nosed builders’ gauge trowel, or a garden trowel!
Other pointing trowels are often too thin and can slice bone when digging, or they are too bendy and if not solid cast they can snap when digging up stones or attacking a hard sun-baked layer.
Over the years they shrink as the metal is worn away, and eventually the old favourite trowel has to be replaced with a new one as it is just too small for most work. You can tell whether the archaeologist who used a particular trowel was right or left-handed or even ambidextrous, which most of us are, due to the shape of a trench with a section on the left and one on the right, unless you turn round!
Archaeologists are very protective of their trowels, as they wear with you and become just right for your hand and digging technique. This often leads to carvings and other kinds of decoration to identify it if it gets mislaid, or ends up on the spoil heap by mistake! The project run by Barbara Bender and the University of London at Leskernick included anthropologists who looked at the temporary homes of the diggers and how they personalized them or not. I’m not sure if they looked at diggers’ trowels as well. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/leskernick/articles.html
Archaeologists in future will be able to tell quite a lot about a trowel that may have been left down a trench. At Caerwent we found the remains of a brush and hand shovel that an antiquarian had left behind many years earlier, sadly no trowel.
How would you decorate your trowel, you have to remember how it’s held so there are no lumps and bumps to rub your hand. 🙂