Message #161
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 

Date: Fri, 08 May 1998
Subject: Marshalltown Trowel

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From: TR News Room 

After surfing to your site, I was pleased to see the
Marshalltown trowel. Theyv'e been making the world's
best trowels here since the 1800's. They also have a
nice web site at

Stephen Hill, Features Editor,
Marshalltown Times-Republican

From: Brian Kenny

Dear Mr. Hill -- Thank you for writing! As an
archaeologist, I own several Marshalltown trowels.
Marshalltown is the only trowel I will buy, and many
archaeologists prefer the Marshalltown with the 45-5
blade. After SWA linked to the Marshalltown history
page and told Marshalltown to be aware, hundreds of
archaeologists started visiting their web site. That's
when they decided to put up a product page for
archaeologists. Archaeologists love to personalize
their trowel's wooden handle. They also tend to file
sharpen blade edges to more easily cut soil, and with
a little use-wear, some trowels just fit better in
the hand than do others. It is my observation that
many archaeologists tend to be jealous and possessive
of their best trowel to a degree that they will let
no one else use their favorite. A worn out trowel is
a sad thing, and I know many creaky old archaeologists
who keep their old favorite though it is past any
useful function. (I soon will be in that state, too! )

Brian Kenny

SASIG Readers! Please Note:


From: Jerry Brody
The marshalltown folks may be interested to know
that when Florence Ellis retired from the University
of New Mexico some years ago I was given the job by
my fellow faculty at the Dept. of Anthropology of
getting the right present for her. I got a
marshalltown trowel (I don't recall now if it was
new or if I stole one of Florence's), badgered C.G.
Wallace into cutting off a hunk of turquoise about
2x3x6" from an enormous block he had (it was
beautiful stuff) and then mounted the trowel 
- gold-plated - onto the piece of turquoise. It was
the best-looking marshalltown ever owned by an

From: Neal Ackerly
OK Brian, you've opened Pandora's box.  When I
was an undergrad at Florida State, we had to work
in swampy clays and other such southern-fried
muck. Difficult to trowel at best. Consequently,
we took to putting a razor edge on them 4.5 inch
Marshalltowns--all the better to cut through the
clays and perhaps grab a quick shave in the morning.
You could always tell an FSU product since the right
back Levi's pocket generally had a gaping hole from
successively shoving razor-sharp trowels into them.
One day, in my haste (or perhaps I was showing off
for some young thing, I can't rightly remember), I
applied my trowel to my right rear pocket with a
bit of a flourish (and inadvertent torque).
Apparently my explanation of the necessity of using
razor-sharp trowels was plausible enough to convince
the  doctor in the emergency room.  But he sure
laughed a lot while he was stitching me up.

From: Mike Berry
My trowel's name is Jesse.  It excavates
stratigraphically (as per Jesse Jennings and
Mortimer Wheeler).  Trowels named Emil excavate
in arbitrary levels.  Though I despise the NRA,
a paraphrase seems appropriate. "Trowels don't foul
up sites, people do."

From: Laurie Slawson

I took field school at the University of Cincinnati
in the summer of 1974 right after graduating from
the University of Michigan. UC sent me a list of
equipment to bring with me--one of the items on the
list was a 6" Marshalltown trowel. Today, almost 24
years later, I still have that trowel, although the
blade now measures less than 3" in length due to the
many digs in which it has participated. It usually
gets a big laugh from my crew when I take it out of
my toolbox! However, when a special tool is needed
to dig in a small, confined space, requests are
usually made to use my mini-trowel. I always give
them a warning though--beware my wrath if they
break it!   ;)