"So, what things do you usually cover for the Times,
The girl smiled gently at Doctor Holmes. She
really preferred to be called 'RW' rather than her full name, but she was too
nervous to say so in front of such a renown archaeologist. "I've done a variety
of pieces," she began. "Some had to do with role-playing and knowing your pet
better . . . others were short stories . . ." She paused, staring back at the
Skeith's quizzical look. If all she had ever published was either fictional
or social, what in Neopia was she doing covering a scientific excavation? In
an attempt to answer the conservator's unasked question, she offered, "I've
also done a lot of work dealing with nature. Lots of exploration stuff - petpets
in Tyrannia, civilization on the south pole . . . that sort of thing."
"Oh really?" said Holmes, suddenly interested.
"I think I read the article about the south pole. Very interesting subject you
covered . . . should we or should we not contact previously uncontacted civilizations?
Very interesting indeed . . ." the conservator mused.
RW nodded, an awkward silence falling upon the
group. To her right was the supervisor of the Techo Mountain excavation, Doctor
Josephine Hamperdank. A Techo herself, the doctor seemed to take great relish
in describing their progress thus far. She had told the reporter they were not
actually excavating the mountain, but a village near Techo Mountain dating to
the time when the giant Techo head was thought to have been carved. "We just
say 'Techo Mountain' to safeguard the actual location," she had said. "Looting
can be a problem in excavations."
The reporter glanced behind her and smiled at
Gelrelt, who trailed behind the doctors along with Ryshu. Scout the Sauropod
clung to RW's shoulder, content to let her Moehog owner chat with the trainer
Meeting real-life archaeologists was about as
nerve-wracking for her as a meeting with the editor of the Neopian Times
herself, and RW's knotted stomach attested to this fact. These scientists had
done so much, spending years in school becoming educated in such things as pottery
sherds, nail production, and stone tools. They even learned about jar molds
to accurately date glass. Holmes had gone through extensive training in how
to conserve artifacts, and Hamperdank was extremely well-versed in the ancient
cultures of Neopia. Indeed, RW had harbored a great amount of respect for these
kinds of people.
As the group of six walked toward the dig camp
site, the reporter surveyed the lush vegetation of Mystery Island. Every once
in awhile, RW caught site of wild petpets playing in the tropical forest surrounding
the road. Vibrant greens and bright flowers popped out at her, and the sound
of constantly trickling water fascinated her. She mentally made note to cover
Mystery Island forests in the near future.
It was the sound of the water that spawned her
next question, "What do you do when it rains? It must do that quite a bit here."
Doctor Hamperank looked up at the human, "Oh
. . . if it's just a misty rain, we'll keep digging through it, but if it gets
any worse, we cover the units with tarps and stake them down."
"Does the rain interrupt your work often?"
This time Holmes answered, "Since we're past
Gadsgadsbogen, it rarely rains anymore. We wisely chose to dig during Mystery
Island's dry season!"
Gelrelt rolled his eyes, clearly disinterested
in anything the human and archaeologists were talking about. They were droning
on about archaeological techniques and conservation - boring! He snorted
and kicked the dirt with his right front hoof. Who really cared about a bunch
of broken things in the dirt? Some people had lived there a long time ago, and
were gone now. So what?
The Moehog glanced up at Ryshu for a moment.
The red Nimmo seemed kind enough, he had even tried to start up a friendly conversation.
Gelrelt was about to say something to him, perhaps he could ask him about the
training school, but the Nimmo spoke first, pointing ahead, "There's the dig
Gelrelt looked in the direction Ryshu had pointed
to see numerous tan tents scattered about a sizeable clearing. He guessed the
tents weren't all that great at keeping water out, since each one had a waterproof
tarp spread over its roof.
Standing in the middle of the clearing, situated
between several rather out-of-place trees, was a much larger semi-permanent
building. Gelrelt immediately wondered what this house was for, but didn't bother
asking for fear of appearing interested. Who knew what would happen if he got
one of these weirdos talking about their work? He had no desire to become one
of their dirt-loving kind.
"We'll show you where you'll be staying," Doctor
Hamperdank was saying to RW. "I think it'll be suitable for you. If you need
a crate to set things on, just let someone know."
The doctors led them across the clearing to a
human-sized canvas box-tent situated in the north-west corner of the clearing.
When Holmes opened the flap for RW to step through, Gelrelt could see that it
consisted of nothing more than two cots. 'Oh, wonderful,' Gelrelt thought,
'We travel all week to get to on this lousy island, wait two hours just to
be picked up, and then they can't even give us decent living quarters!'
RW smiled politely and set her things down on one of the cots and motioned for
Gelrelt to do the same, still oblivious to his ill mood.
"So, would you two like to see the Dig House
now? I'm afraid we'll have to wait 'til tomorrow to see the excavation site
- I gave the team the day off." Hamperdank smiled apologetically.
The girl nodded, "I would be glad to."
Holmes grinned, "Great! I can show you what I
do here!" He started walking towards the large building, Hamperdank and RW in
Gelrelt stood in the tent for a moment, staring
at the trio. Ryshu politely excused himself, heading toward his own little tent.
Gelrelt sighed, staring down at the dirt floor. Not even Scout had stayed to
be with him - she was still on RW's shoulder. He was alone, as usual.
"So, you put the sherds in there?" The reporter
asked, pointing at a bowl filled with sand.
Holmes nodded, "Yup, we do - after we've found
at least two pieces of pottery that fit together, we glue them and stick them
in the sand like this." He picked up two sherds that were already glued together
and stuck one end down in the sand so that the piece on top was sticking up
several centimeters in the air. "This makes things a lot easier, especially
when you have more than one thing that needs gluing at a time."
RW nodded, studying the bowl. The three of them
-- four counting Scout -- had been in what was known as the 'Dig House' for
about a half hour now. The Skeith and Techo seemed to be just as passionate
about conservation as they were about their excavation work. "So, what kinds
of glues do you use when you put the pottery together?"
"Oh, nothing that we can't undo -- stuff that
comes undone in warm water," the Skeith replied. "You always want to be able
to undo anything you do where artifacts are concerned."
"So . . ." the reporter tried to think of another
question. She noted a crate sitting beside the table, completely full of bags
of broken pottery. "You seem to have quite a bit of pottery . . ."
"Actually, we've found a lot more brick
and mortar than pottery, but that's our next largest artifact group," Doctor
Hamperdank said. She picked up a bag from the crate and handed it to RW. "We've
been able to identify two distinctly different pottery styles." The doctor pointed
to a orange-red sherd inside the bag. "There's this red-slipped, burnished kind,
and this," she picked up another bag, almost completely full of dull, earth-colored
pieced. "Occasionally we find a few pieces with a salt-glaze , but for the most
part these pieces were given no treatment at all prior to being fired."
RW cast a confused expression Holmes' direction.
Was she really expected to know what all that pottery-babble meant?
Holmes, immediately understanding the reporter's
dilemma, rose from the seat he had taken at the pottery table and joined the
other two. "Pottery like this can tell us several things," he said, taking the
bag of dull pottery from RW's hands. He pointed to a sherd that had brown-orange
splotches all over it. It was one of the few shiny sherds in the bag. "Those
clusters of brown came from a salt-glaze. Salt-glaze is the most decoration
we've found on the pottery coming from the east side of the settlement. Everything
else is like this," he turned the bag over so she could see all the plain, clay
"On the other hand," Holmes took the other bag
from RW, "these come from the west side of the village. Before they were put
into the kiln, the potter took a hard object and rubbed the pot smooth -- that's
what we call 'burnishing'. Then, the potter took some red clay and water, mixed
it together, and painted it all over the pot. That's making a 'slip'."
While RW had been listening to the wrinkled conservator's
explanation, she had been preparing her next question, "You said the decorated
stuff came from the west side of the site, and the undecorated pottery came
from the east side . . . do you have any idea why that is?"
Holmes smiled, thoroughly enjoying reciting what
he knew about the site, "Well, we're not quite sure yet. It could mean we actually
have two different periods of occupation, or-"
"Or it could be an indication of social distinction,"
Hamperdank interrupted. "We may have two different classes living on opposite
sides of the town, indicated by the drastically different pottery quality."
Holmes ignored Hamperdank's interruption, "We
may even have two different Neopet species. Each species developed its own distinct
pottery style. That could also explain the differences in the pottery styles."
He shrugged. "But, of course, we'll only find out for sure who or what lived
here as the excavation progresses."
The Skeith smiled once more, placing the two
bags back in the crate and returning to his chair at the pottery table. He folded
his claws over his stomach and leaned back, completely relaxed. "But anyway,
you'll find out more tomorrow. It's one thing to hear about all this stuff,
but when you're actually taking it out of the ground - literally and figuratively
touching history . . ." his smile grew into a grin, "well, you'll just have
to experience it for yourself."
Angel the green Nimmo rushed down the street.
It was in the late afternoon now, and he had only recently managed to steal
away from the dig team. For some reason they enjoyed going on little excursions
together, and had insisted he accompany them on a tour of Mystery Island.
His enthusiasm in waking Doctor Hamperdank had
not been driven by his concern for their guests, but by his urgent need to contact
his mentor. He desperately needed to find a place where he could Neomail the
old, red Techo, but he hadn't been able to break away from the dig team.
Angel made a sharp turn to the right, straight
into the local post-office. He grabbed a sheet of paper from a nearby stack
and proceeded to write furiously, 'Found suspicious fragment in unit. May
be related to yours. Extraction necessary. Will Neomail you drawing.' He
folded the note hastily and stuck a stamp on the outside before addressing it.
He sealed the letter with a piece of tape and slipped it into the box marked
'OUT OF THIS WORLD' and stepped outside the post-office. He would have to get
the artifact out tonight.
Gelrelt grumbled as he tossed and turned on his
cot, searching for a comfortable position. The camp was now silent with sleep,
the sun having been absorbed into the western horizon. Gelrelt cast an envious
glance at RW, who slept soundly in her cot along with Scout, who lay in a ball
on her stomach.
Gelrelt's inability to sleep wasn't the only
thing bothering him that night. After RW had gone off with the archaeologists
and Ryshu went to his tent, he had been left completely alone. In the utter
silence of the empty camp he had been able to see and hear everything that was
going on, which wasn't much. Finally, he spotted Ryshu heading up a hill towards
the excavation site.
Gelrelt had tagged along to try and talk with
him, but Ryshu wasn't quite as talkative as he had been on the way to the camp.
As soon as they reached the dig site, Ryshu took a seat and told him he was
too busy watching the site to talk with him. Gelrelt snorted at the memory.
How hard is it to watch a bunch of holes in the ground?
And so, rather than walking back to camp, the
Moehog stayed and wandered around the site. There wasn't too much to see, as
the dig units were covered over with tarps secured to the ground with stakes.
He noted lines of old, hand-shaped rocks criss-crossed all over the hill. Those
are probably old walls or something, he thought.
As he wondered about the ruins, careful not to
step on any of the strings that formed a gigantic grid over the site, he noted
a large boulder near the edge of a clearing. Having nothing better to do, Gelrelt
meandered over to the boulder and stared up at it. It was quite eroded from
years of sitting in the rain, but its shape seemed to call something to mind
. . . it had two large bumps on top, and its front protruded outward in an almost
Gelrelt shrugged it off. It was just an old rock
that was shaped a little weird.
It was then that he heard it -- scraping and
scratching from the other side of the boulder. Rounding the corner, Gelrelt
saw him - a green Nimmo in an uncovered unit (which was nothing more than a
two meter by two meter hole in the ground). He was working so intently he didn't
notice the Darigan Moehog staring down at him.
Must be one of the dirt Mynci's . . .
Gelrelt thought. He moseyed up to him, "Hey."
The Nimmo started and looked up at him with wide
Sensing his nervousness, Gelrelt wondered if
the Nimmo might be a looter. He threw a glance over his shoulder to locate Ryshu
and realized the boulder stood between them -- Ryshu couldn't see him. Turning
back to the Nimmo, Gelrelt questioned, "You an archaeologist?"
The Nimmo hopped out of his square unit and stuck
out his claw, "Name's Angel. You that reporter we've heard so much about?"
Gelrelt shook his head, "That'd be my human,
ResurrectedWarrior. I'm Gel." He ignored the outstretched claw. Shaking hoof-to-claw
never really appealed to him.
Angel dropped his green hand after a few awkward
moments. He spun around and tossed his excavation tools - a masonry trowel,
wide paintbrush, root clippers, and a dustpan into a bucket before placing the
load in the center of the unit. He hopped out of the hole and picked up a blue
tarp. "Well, you want to help me close this thing up 'till tomorrow?"
Gelrelt didn't move, still suspicious, "Why were
you digging alone?"
The Nimmo flinched, tensing considerably. "Oh,
well . . ." he could feel Gelrelt's eyes on him, "sometimes it's nice to just
come up here alone and do some work by myself." He shrugged, trying to loosen
up, "Helps me concentrate."
Gelrelt shrugged. It sounded like a decent excuse
to him. "Oh . . ."
Gelrelt helped the Nimmo stake down the tarp
and walked with him back down the hill to the camp. The fact that Angel seemed
to know Ryshu helped ease Gelrelt's fear the Nimmo was a looter.
Yet now, lying on his cot, Gelrelt couldn't get
that alarmed, startled look Angel had given him out of his mind. If digging
alone was normal, why had the Nimmo stopped working as soon as Gelrelt interrupted
him? The Moehog wasn't sure. Perhaps Angel was just a strange character, like
most archaeologists were. But still, no matter how hard he tried to reason it
out of his mind, he simply couldn't reconcile Angel's behavior with that of
a normal person. The problem stuck with the Moehog all night long, haunting
him in his dreams.
To be continued...