University of Central Florida Associate Professor Sarah Stacy Barber loves to dig and her favorite tool to do it is the Marshalltown trowel.

It’s every archaeologists go-to tool, much like a barista depends on a coffee grinder to do his job or a ballerina on her pointe shoes to do hers, Barber said.

“Buying your first Marshalltown trowel is something of a rite of passage in archaeology,” Barber said as she explained the history behind the small, hand-held tool used to scrape away dirt on a dig. “It’s one of the first steps in becoming a professional archaeologist.” She teaches students about trowels and other basics of archeological field work in her mixed-mode Archaeological Methods class at UCF.

“Most archeologists in the U.S., Canada and Mexico use it,” she said. “Archaeologists are very attached to their trowels…No one uses my Marshalltown except me.”

Her knowledge also made her the perfect person to school David Brancaccio, the host of NPR’s Marketplace. He’s been running a segment for the past month about the tools professionals use to do their jobs, called: Pro Tool. So far he’s done everything from coffee grinders to a deck of cards magicians use to wow an audience.

To hear the segment click here.

Barber discussed the role trowels play in her profession during the national radio show on Wednesday, May 18.

She brings her trusty trowel to her digs in Mexico and uses it when she explains to first-time students how to properly prepare and excavate a dig site.

Barber specializes in the archaeology of Mesoamerica. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005 and joined the UCF faculty in 2007. The central goal of her research is to understand how and why the earliest cities in Mexico developed. Her fieldwork has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Religion and Innovation in Human Affairs program.