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Shovelbum (from the Old English words scofl = shovel/an excavating tool and American English bum = person with no settled residence) is a term used by some archaeologists in the United States to refer to the professional excavators on cultural resource management projects. "Shovelbum" or "Digbum" is pejorative when used by non-professionals but defiantly proud when used by archaeologists about themselves. It is considered poor form for a professional who has not done time as a shovelbum to use the term in a derogatory fashion, especially in a classroom setting. Unlike a beach bum, the title "shovelbum" is conferred only after extensive field/lab work. Thomas F. King, an author of many influential CRM books quotes R. Joe Brandon, the founder of the Shovelbums [1] in Doing Archaeology that "...any archaeologist worth their salt has spent time as a Shovel Bum." [2]

When an archaeologist can say they have spent a certain number of years "on the road shovelbumming", peers and students alike understand that to mean that when the chips are down, regardless of the circumstances, this individual can produce quality scientific data and reports.[citation needed]

So called shovelbums, have a greater knowledge of practical aspects of archaeology. They don't work on theoretical levels,but work in extreme elements and have a greater level of knowledge of the elements, environment, and biology of the area they are working. Archaeology can't be done from an office.[citation needed]

Popular culture[edit]

Shovel Bum #10 EXXXtreme Archaeology

Shovel Bum is a zine about archaeological field life that was created by Trent de Boer in 1997 ([1]). Trent and Betsy de Boer used comics to help explain their archaeological field technician jobs to friends and family. Later issues included submissions from other shovel bums around the country. The Archaeology Channel ([2]) hosts two Shovel Bum short videos.


  1. ^ Brandon, R. Joe. "Resource for jobs, RFPs, news and gear.". Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  2. ^ King, Thomas (2005). Doing Archaeology: a Cultural Resource Management Perspective. Left Coast Press. ISBN 1-59874-003-2.