Every Archaeologist’s Pocket Needs This

I’m sure every archaeologist would have a different answer if asked what they could absolutely not go into the field without.

My fieldwork essential is very small and lightweight.  Just 2.5 inches long and weighing in at 1.8 ounces, it is made of heat-treated, high carbon 420 stainless steel.


My Leatherman micra was a gift from my Dad when I started doing archaeology.  With 10 tools in 1 tiny package, the Leatherman micra can’t be beat in the field.


(1) Knife – crafted from corrosion-resistant, high-carbon stainless steel, the knife is super sharp.  It is very useful, for example, in cutting rolls of plastic to reinforce your sandbag berm protecting your site.


(5) Nail cleaner AND (8) Nail file – Let’s get real:  every archaeologist needs these in the field!  Nails break on a semi-daily basis, and there is always, always, always dirt underneath our fingernails.  It’s just the nature of the job, and most of us conveniently forget our manicure kits at home.

(9) Medium screwdriver – Do you use a laser level at your site to take your depth measurements?  If you do, then this screwdriver comes in handy every time you have to change those pesky batteries – both on the laser unit and especially on the remote!

(4) Ruler (4.7 inches/12 centimeters) – This precise measuring guide is a perfect scale for photographing artifacts in the field.  You can use a fancy scale once you get back to the photo lab.


(2) Spring-action Scissors – The scissors are best for cutting light materials.  I typically use them for cutting the string when I am stringing out my squares, for cutting flagging tape to tie around marker posts, or for cutting electrical tape to mark intervals on a geophysical guide rope.

(6) Tweezers – They are perfect for removing slivers in the field, which seem to happen far more frequently than we’d prefer.  They’re also useful for picking up tiny artifacts from your window screen!


(10) Extra-small screwdriver – Designed for extra-small screws, such as eyeglass screws, this is one of the less-frequently used tools on my Leatherman.  However, it’s a lifesaver when the screw on my sunglasses comes loose, saving me from the ocular hazards of eight hours in the blazing sunlight!

(7) Bottle opener – We all know that archaeologists need our beer.  With your Leatherman micra, you’ll never be caught without a bottle opener for those caps that don’t twist off, saving yourself time and energy!

(3) Flat/Phillips Screwdriver

Not only does the key ring attachment make it easy to keep your Leatherman micra handy, but in a pinch, a string can be tied to the split ring loop to create a make-shift plumb bob!

Perhaps the most important function of the Leatherman micra in the field is at 3:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays when the scissors are responsible for the success of my crew’s “popsicle break.”

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