The Archaeologist's Necklace, Copyright © 2008, Designs by Victoria
After years of research leading to inconclusive finds, Professor Harriett Marner was sure she’d finally found “the one.” The site that would make her reputation, that would show that her “wasted years of digging through mouldy old texts” (her uncle’s words) were a worthwhile pursuit, and not the waste of time that all of her family considered her choice of career to be. It would prove that she could be a success, that she had not thrown away her chance at social status and a family for nothing when she turned down a young and rather impoverished earl’s proposal of marriage and used her inheritance, which would have been her dowry, to instead gain a university education and fund her expeditions.
As she wielded the pick herself, digging into the hillside through which the old stones of an arched lintel had become slightly exposed through the erosion of years, she and her assistants fidgeted nervously, anticipating the ancient relics that would be revealed for the first time in centuries. They uncovered a stone slab with rusted metal hinges, and broken metal banding. When they wrested the slab aside and entered the chamber, they were greeted with a bare room, carved out of the hillside, with blocks of stone for walls put in place, empty except for a few broken crates, a couple of empty barrels, and an overturned table, and one wall mostly hidden when a part of the hill had collapsed some time previously. It turns out they had uncovered an old ruin, indeed, but of a smuggler’s hideout. Hidden under the table, which she righted out of habit of neatness, she found a broken pocketwatch, left behind as the previous inhabitants had perhaps fled the law.
Disheartened, she sent her assistants back to the nearby village in which they had been staying. Perhaps they were right, she thought. This had been a waste of her time, her money, and her life, the pursuit of nothing. She sat on one of the barrels, with her lantern, staring at the ceiling, for some time before she noticed the engraving on the wall opposite her, the one mostly buried by dirt. She scrabbled and scrambled her way up the pile of loose dirt so she could examine the buried wall, and found runes etched into what appeared to be a lintel. As all her tools had left with her assistants, she proceeded to first dig with her hands, then using some of the boards from the broken crates as a shovel, clearing away more and more of the fallen dirt until she uncovered a second stone doorway, with an intact bar and seal. Stymied at last by the lack of proper tools, she practically ran back to the village, where she rousted her assistants out of the tavern, along with a couple of local strong backs, and bullied them back to the site with her tools and extra lanterns.
Within short order, the rest of the dirt was cleared, and then after stencils were properly taken, the seal was broken, and Harriett finally had the experience of which she’d dreamed for years, of being the first to enter an ancient site, undisturbed and perfectly preserved. It proved to be the tomb of a chieftain of a people who had previously never been known to have come this far north, and cataloguing the site and tracing the clan’s possible movements gained for her what her relatives had claimed she’d never achieve – renown in her chosen field.
She and her assistants each took a piece from the broken watch they had found in the first room, what they had initially thought to be the only find from the dig. Each of them did various things with their pieces. Harriett had hers strung as a necklace, which she never failed to wear to a family event for the rest of her life.