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Goodness gracious, great Blazing Trowels!

So today, after just over a week of frantic planning following a moment's madness by myself and three colleagues on Twitter- the blog TrowelBlazers is launching at 3pm!

Tori Herridge, Brenna Hassett (aka #SpaceApe Queen), Suzie Birch and me decided to do something funky to big up the often astounding stories of pioneering women in the fields of archaeology, palaeontology and geology: in other words, Trowel Blazers! In case you're sleepy today and haven't twigged, or are baffled by the idea of women being linked by a garden/building implement, TROWELS are the tool of choice for scientists who work out in the field on excavations in these three disciplines. Well, for most jobs anyway; heavy earth-shifting requires a pick or mattock, and for the tricky, delicate parts we might use a toothpick or wooden spatula (not metal! No!). Specifically, we use pointing trowels, not the big rounded types you might pot a herb with.

This is a trowel. They don't all come with hand-carved Celtic fripperies, this was a wedding present from my lovely fellow students at the end of my undergraduate degree. To the trowel snobs, yes I know it's not drop-forged, but it's done alright after all my others were stolen by students at the Creswell Crags excavations, ok?

There are some disputes about benefits of different trowel size; UK archaeos tend to use 4 inch trowels (drop-forged, if you please!), while some North American colleages favour whopping great things referred to as 'Philadelphia style'. But we are united in our fondness for our trowels, faithful companions as we scratch - or batter <ahem>- through tough sediments, in rain or sun, at exciting ancient cave sites or deadly dull ditch features. There are even some who sneak looks at other's tools, quantifying the relative stubbyness as a measure of excavating experience. Mine seem to retain their length but become progressively thinner,  developing a weird asymmetry- rather like a heavily re-sharpened Mousterian biface in fact! I'm either a wonky digger or channelling my inner Neandertal.

Not all early archaeologists, palaeontologists or geologists used trowels of course, but it's a great emblem for the many, many women, some famous, some virtually forgotten, who forged ahead in the exploration of the past, making discoveries that are still hugely important today. Not to mention having some amazing adventures along the way- so join us at the TrowelBlazers site at 3pm GMT today (and follow us on Twitter @trowelblazers, and at facebook) for the first posts in our Festival of Female Fieldwork Fabulousness- and think up who you'd like to include, as the site will be open for submissions too!


Anonymous said…
I have two (drop forged of course), from my years as a digger, that both started out at 4 inches and are now both less than 1 inch. A lot of scraping.

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