© Clive Osborne Rapley
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Chapter 3 Excavation (First Draft)
Justin’s team consisted of two Americans, a petite Italian postgraduate and a fellow British anthropologist from Birmingham University. The Americans as usual only spoke Chinese. Justin’s Chinese was not good but at least he knew enough to get by.
The initial survey found fourteen bodies, five together against the wall, one on its own against the opposite wall. The remainder were scattered around on the floor near the door.
The theory was the five were high class due to the jewellery and money scattered around them. There was one old man, a middle aged woman and a relatively younger woman clutching two children one about six or seven and the other in its early teens. The group near the door were various ages with no or few possessions they were assumed to be slaves or retainers of the five against the wall.
The mystery was the body on its own. Justin felt oddly morose when he was near it. He could not shake the feeling. He had worked on human remains before without any problem. He had no problem with the others in the cellar; it was just this one, sitting apart from the rest.
The skeleton was the remains of a woman in her early to mid twenties. To die sitting apart like that was sad.
They had slowly cleared the front of the room and it was time to start close examination and removal of the lone skeleton. The work was due to start the following morning. Justin had wanted to avoid it as long as possible but the time had now come.
He woke from an uneasy sleep. He had woken a couple of times during the night. He had dreamed of falling rocks, screaming, people around him running for shelter. He could not get away. Then there was searing heat, he could not breathe his lungs burned, his skin blackened. Each time he had woken sweating and shaken.
Justin shuddered he had the strangest feeling the dreams were related in some way to the lone body in the cellar. He rose shaved and had a long shower letting the warm water run down his back hoping it would wash away the feelings the dreams had left him with.
The walk to the site in the bright morning sunshine failed to raise his spirits. He greeted his colleagues with a cursory “good morning”
He picked up some empty finds trays and made his way towards the cellar. The two Chinese Americans were already there working on one of the slaves bodies. They greeted him with a cursory nod and returned to their work. He knelt by the skeleton and started to carefully clear away the layer of ash around its feet. He would slowly make his way up the body looking for any signs of jewellery, possessions or adornment.
His careful search was quickly rewarded. Lying in the dust near her feet was a small metal ring. He carefully cleaned around it and lifted it for close inspection. It looked like it could possibly be an ankle bracelet.
From its sheen and clean appearance it was possibly silver. There was what looked like an inscription etched into its outer surface. He held it up to the light. So he could make out the characters.
Justin let out an involuntary gasp it was not Latin! One of the Americans looked up.
Just at that moment the British anthropologist stepped into the cellar. “What have you found Justin?”
“What looks like a silver ankle bracelet with an inscription”
“That’s not unusual”
“No but an inscription in what appears to be Sanskrit is! Here look for yourself” Justin passed him the metal band. The others working in the cellar gathered round to look.
“It does look like Sanskrit doesn’t it” one of the others said.
“I wonder what it says?” The Italian girl asked.
Justin sighed, I don’t know, Take it to the finds tent for closer examination and cataloguing will you please?”
She nodded “yes OK”. She turned and left the cellar.
As Justin knelt back down he noticed something laying near the hipbone. It looked like a dislocated part of a finger. The woman’s hands were folded on her lap and were fully articulated so it should not have been there. Justin reached forward and picked it up. It was a small bone or ivory carving. It reminded him of an Indian Goddess, some sort of talisman. It was attached to a thin gold chain, which had broken. It had probably been worn around her neck
Justin removed his hard hat to wipe his brow. This was surprising an Indian carving and a Sanskrit engraved bracelet. This skeleton certainly needed further investigation. He shuddered involuntarily memories of his dreams the previous night flashed through his mind as he looked at the small carving closely.
The tiny face of the goddess seemed to grow; it turned towards him and smiled. Justin felt his heart almost jump out of his chest. He blinked and nearly dropped the object.
Just at that moment one of the Americans working behind him stood up lost his footing and fell backwards-knocking Justin’s head hard against the brick wall.
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