A slang term for an archaeological field technician
Basically, a shovel bum is the base "digger" level in the CRM archaeology employment hierarchy. Most of these people have spent years obtaining a B.A. in Anthropology, including taking a summer to attend an archaeological field school, in order to be qualified for this job.
The shovel bums job usually is a temporary position (complete without benefits), that involves lots of digging and walking in rural and sometimes wild areas. The job can be grueling and there is always the threat of such things as sunburn, ticks, broken ankles, snakebites, and the like.
The average shovel bum wears old torn clothing, including either jeans or BDU pants, hats, boots, t-shirt, and a flannel shirt, if it's cold out. In the evenings, the shovel bum goes back to the hotel and lives off of the per diem supplied by the contract company that hired him/her.
In the evening, the shovel bum will either eat out or dine on an amazing diet comprised of one pot cooking techniques using either a camp stove or a hot pot. Ramen and other easy and cheap noodle dishes are always popular. The key to the shovel bum diet is eating in a manner that maximizes the per diem so they have extra money over their paycheck to spend on more important things than mere food. For most shovel bums, this would be booze and cigarettes. It is not uncommon for a shovel bum to pass out in the back of a pickup truck and wake up the next morning in the wrong county, or to pass on buying an essential tool, like a compass, because the bum would rather spend it on cheap beer. It is also not uncommon for a shovel bum to blow his entire week's per diem on booze and smokes during the first night, thus ensuring a long period of bumming food off of coworkers.
There is a particular subset of the shovel bum, usually those that do the one pot cooking, that don't go out after dinner, but instead choose to isolate themselves in their hotel room, not to emerge until the next work day.
While most shovel bums either work their way up in rank to that of field supervisor or even project director, some remain shovel bums well into their forties. Because of the natural wear and tear that this job puts on a person's body, these people look about 20 years older than they actually are. The first thing to go on a shovel bum is either the knees, from all the kneeling, or the sanity.