Buried Treasure

“When we study history we obtain a more profound insight into human nature by instituting a comparison between the present and former states of society”
Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology (1832)

As a student, I chose to study archaeology because I’d been fascinated by Ancient Egypt since childhood. Only when I got to university and had to decide in which area to specialise did I realise I’d been led down a false path.

I couldn’t see the practical application of being able to read and write hieroglyphics.

I couldn’t afford to visit Egypt, and back then I didn’t know enough about the world to realise that if I had to travel on business I’d get expenses.

And I didn’t see too many jobs in the museums of Britain where an in-depth knowledge of Egyptology was going to be a boon.

So I chose to study Prehistoric Europe.

Prehistory by its very nature is mysterious: before history, before documentation, before the record-keeping and writing that forms so much of what we know about ancient peoples. So I didn’t need to learn Ancient Greek, or Latin, or hieroglyphics.

I got to play with a theodolite. I got to Italy, and excavated a site where Otzi the Iceman got his axe. I got chapped fingers scrubbing pot-sherds in cold water.

I discovered buried treasure was the result of a lot of digging, a lot of sifting, and a lot of luck.

On November 5th 1922, Howard Carter wrote in his pocket diary: 'Discovered tomb under tomb of Ramsses VI investigated same & found seals intact.'

On November 5th 1922, Howard Carter wrote in his pocket diary: ‘Discovered tomb under tomb of Ramesses VI investigated same & found seals intact.’

I got to realise that the world of professional archaeology is a small one. Contracts are short, and pay is low. Competition is high for the paid jobs that come up and I’d started too late to make a career of it without paying my dues for years to come. Years of moving from place to place and job to job, never settled, not knowing where your next contract might lead.

I’d already spent years living like that. The lure of buried treasure wasn’t so strong that I’d put up with the equivalent of going to the Klondike and living in a tent for a decade.

But as a writer, I can create buried treasure of my own.

I go digging. From the comfort of my desk, with a map and an open mind.

I take my lantern and my shovel and go out into the darkness between the lines of my favourite stories, like Howard Carter searching between the empty tombs of the Valley Of The Kings.

Searching for wonderful things.

3 Comments

  1. A lovely piece, thank you.

    Of course, as a writer, you must also follow up the search with a curse, a lot of running about being chased by mummies and a happy ending.

    • Thank you .
      There were plenty of curses, but there were more Oops! moments… not so many of the undead, though.
      Happy ending? But where will the franchise go then? Hmm? HMM?

  2. […] It felt like I’d discovered Buried Treasure. […]


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