Gift Ideas for the Archaeologist 2020

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Archaeology-related gifts are always appreciated by archaeologists. Mostly because we’re poor! In previous years I’ve tried to come up with a list of gift ideas for the archaeologist (or just those interested in archaeology). This year, I put the question out on social media and here are some of the really cool suggestions i got!

Books in Archaeology

  • My favorite recommendation this year is Eric Cline’s, Digging Up Armageddon, a detailed look at “the early years of Biblical Archaeology” that draws upon the written records of the team led by James Henry Breasted in 1925 to excavate the ancient site of Megiddo. I just purchased a copy myself and can’t wait to dive into it.
  • Another very useful book for the archaeologist that aspires to be crew chief or just wants to have the best understandings of many aspects of the job is The Archaeologist’s Fieldwork Companion. Full of many useful lists, various CRM laws, best practices, forms, and so much more, I bet even a seasoned archaeologist will find it useful.

Careers / Jobs in Archaeology

If it’s a federal job you’re looking for in archaeology (Park Service, Forest Service, BLM, Corps of Engineers, etc.), then you definitely want to make a profile on USA Jobs. Don’t be afraid to apply for things you think you might not qualify for. Be honest on the KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) questions, but don’t cut yourself short!
If you’d rather do normal CRM work, then R. Joe’s Shovel Bums is where you want to start looking!


  • Deep Woods Off. Archaeologists work outside where the bugs are Insect Repellent for mosquitoes and chiggers is a must in many places in the US and even the world.
  • Permethrin. But wherever there are grazing animals like deer, you can bet there are ticks. The diseases they spread are no joke. I’ve been using Repel Permethrin on my clothes and gear for years and swear by it. If you have a loved one that works outside as an archaeologist, give them a box of six cans and you will be their favorite aunt or uncle!
  • Poison Ivy. Oh, and don’t forget the Tecnu to help with the inevitable itch that comes with shovel testing in poison ivy!
  • The MunsellTM. If you really love your archaeologist, get them a Munsell Soil book! These things are like gold and no archaeologist wants to spend their per diem on one.
  • A Hand Pick/Mini-Mattock. My next purchase for work is definitely going to be a couple of these little guys. Every time I’m doing any sort of Phase II or similar work, I keep wishing I had one.
  • A Rock Hammer. I was surprised to see this one suggested, but the more I think about it, the more I realize this could be useful in Phase II work. Just driving galvanized nails in with one side and flipping over to crack open a rock with the other is useful. Just don’t crack open an artifact or feature! My minor is in geology, so I have that urge to check for fossils now and then.
  • Trowel Holster. Okay, this one will be a little controversial, but hear me out. If your a brand new archaeologist and your trowel (hopefully a Marshalltown) came with a holster, you’re going to be tempted to wear it on your first day to field school or at your first job. DON’T DO IT! The old-timers will make fun of you. And it looks a little dorky–although I do it if I’m shovel testing by myself and no one is around. And here’s why: we sharpen our trowels. And if you’ve ever had your trowel poke through your $100 Kelty Redwing, you can appreciate the value of the holster. I actually have mine fastened inside the front pocket of my pack so the hand sticks out. But the pack is safe from the dirt, point, and sharp edges.
  • MicroMini 20x LED Microscope. I do a lot of historical archaeology and like to look at things up close to try and make out writing and the like. This looks like it’ll come in handy and it’s on my personal list! There’s an LED and a UV light inside!
  • Metric Folding Ruler. You can find folding rulers at just about any hardware store. But if you find a Metric one, you’re probably not in the United States. These little guys are useful for everything from a scale for photos to measuring depth/width of STPs, features, etc.


Thermal Work Gloves. If you’re working in the winter season, even in the Southern U.S., there are going to be days where it’s wet and cold. These gloves seem built for shoveling and screening.
Thermal Underwear for Women /Thermal Underwear for Men If you need the gloves, then you probably want some layers. Thermal underwear is a very much appreciated gift for the person who caught a ride to the job site and knows they’re going to be outside until that ride leaves no matter what (those are called archaeologists).
Knee pads. Knees and backs are the first things to go on an archaeologist. Even a cheap pair of knee pads can give you a bit of comfort. And maybe even keep your pants clean enough to wear out to the local Whataburger after work.

Swag and Toys

Egyptian Hieroglyphs Rolling Pin Make cookies for work that everyone will notice!
Archaeologist’s Dad. Give something to your Dad! Guilt him into wearing it everywhere.
Indiana Jones Motorcycle Chase Lego Set. Let’s face it, archaeologists are often nerds. And we do nerd well. Lego sets ain’t cheap and this one is no exception, but I all but guarantee if you give the archaeologist in your family this set they’ll put it together and display it prominently.

And now for something really cool

A Pre-Columbian Style Atlatl. In fact, just about everything this company has is cool. I bookmarked the page and will definitely be shopping there for myself and others in the near future.

Nearly every one of the items above were suggested in a couple of Facebook Groups where I posted the question about what they were giving or hoping to get this year.

2020 has been a hell of a year. I didn’t write much this year for several reasons that I won’t bore you with, but here’s hoping that 2021 will bring good fortune to us all. Even if you aren’t planning on purchasing stuff for anyone, I hope you have fun perusing a few of these links and seeing what a handful of archaeologists on Facebook think would be cool to have.

About Carl Feagans 397 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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