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The State of Lost Desert Archeology


by purplehopper

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It’s been nearly 100 years since the discovery of the tomb of Coltzan II, which was found by an expedition out of Sakhmet long before the Lost Desert was known to the rest of Neopia. The true value of that treasure trove of a tomb is still being calculated a century later, with most of the artefacts documented and stored throughout Sakhmet in public galleries and private vaults. Ever since, the 4th day in the month of Storing has been treated as a minor national holiday, with festivities and feasts abound. With the centennial just months away, this year’s festival is sure to be the most exuberant yet. All the hubbub has garnered interest from Neopets outside of Sahkmet and the Lost Desert. Some particularly wealthy Neopians, who wish to remain anonymous, have donated vast sums of Neopoints to the University of Sakhmet’s excavation team.

     When I asked Dr. Salara Desher, professor of Archeology at the University of Sakhmet and head of the excavations team, what she thought of the sudden influx of cash into her program, she replied that while she’s flattered she’s worried she’ll disappoint her kind patrons. “You see,” she began, “most of the Neopets who donated are hoping to see a discovery as game-changing as the tomb of Coltzan II, but if I’m being honest I’m not sure there are many finds like that left out in these sands.” When she spoke of this the red Zafara kicked a little sand, as if slightly dejected. “But!” she perked up. “For the scholars and history nerds out there, I think what we hope to find is far better than gold.”

     I sat down with Dr. Desher in the shade of the Gebmids where she gave me all the latest and greatest about her excavations in the land of sand.

     INTERVIEWER: So tell me, Professor, what are you and your team out here looking for? Surely you have something specific in mind.

     DR. DESHER: As a matter of fact, yes we do. The primary goal of our dig is to find any records that can tell us about the earliest days of the Lost Desert. Specifically, we are trying to settle the timeless questions surrounding the founding of Sekhmet. There are conflicting records that either Coltzan I or Chen-Ra was responsible for, or perhaps both of them together. The records aren’t even clear on WHEN Sakhmet was founded, let alone by who. Some of the records conflict by as much as a few hundred years. We are really hoping to find clues to clarify this time period.

     INTERVIEWER: This seems like such an important question in Neopian history, why are we just looking into this now?

     DR. DESHER: Well, there have actually been many attempts in the past to make sense of that time period, but they were unsuccessful because records housed in the palace were insufficient. Not only did we not have records, there wasn’t even a clue of where to look for them. I think there were searches as recently as Coltzan III but nothing really came of it.

     INTERVIEWER: So what changed?

     DR. DESHER: A student went to organize a few old pieces from the tomb of Coltzan II and realized that a tablet had never been translated. That tablet eventually became what we now know as ‘Chen-Ras Official Records’.

     INTERVIEWER: Wow what a find! I bet that answered a lot of the mystery surrounding the foundation of Sakhmet!

     DR. DESHER: Well, you would think, but unfortunately that’s not the case. You see, Chen-Ra, who we believe is the actual author of his records, is a terribly unreliable narrator. He has a bad habit of leaving some of the most important details out and including anything that made him look especially good. Much of the records are broad-level administrative timelines, for example, construction on the palace began after the walls, not before as we initially suspected. While that’s useful, he doesn’t say when this was happening, who else was involved, or even where he quarried the stone. But he did mention one crucial, game-changing detail. The first village neighbourhoods of Sakhmet actually stood right where we stand now, in the shadow of the Gebmids.

     INTERVIEWER: Do you mean the remains of the village are still here?

     DR. DESHER: That’s exactly what I’m saying. We are slowly removing layers of sand in a highly systematic fashion. So far we’ve only found a few small trinkets. A comb, a statuette, but it confirms what many didn’t think possible, that the founders of Sakhmet had temporarily settled miles away near the Gebmids.

     INTERVIEWER: Now, those Chen-Ra records were found in Y18, why did it take you until now, Y24, to get digging?

     DR. DESHER: Preparations began immediately, but not long after, and so too did the Y18 Sakhmet Rebellion. While short-lived, it did put an enormous strain on the expedition’s finances, and the extra bureaucratic steps to get approval to dig from both Sakhmet and Qasala cost us another year. Much of our manpower during this time was dedicated to recovering artefacts that went ‘missing’ during the Rebellion. While we were able to locate most of them, others are seemingly gone for good. The combination of all this resulted in a six-year delay.

     INTERVIEWER: Well I’m glad you’re back at it! Could you tell me how you use these digging tools? What do you actually do to move the sand?

     DR. DESHER: Well, we begin by sectioning off plots of land into squares with string as you see here. This helps us document as we dig.

     She knelt down into the dirt and began gently brushing away sand into the tiniest dustpan.

     DR. DESHER: We must be extra careful, as many of the materials out here are organic, and something like wood could easily break if touched with a hand or metal trowel.

     Absorbed in her work, she swept and dug just long enough that I was worried she might have forgotten about our conversation, but then she paused. Leaning in close she blew away a fine layer of sand to reveal what appeared to be something metallic glistening just beneath. To me, it appeared to be gold. And it also looked larger than just a statuette. Dr. Desher didn’t move for what felt like an eternity.

     INTERVIEWER: What’s that?

     DR. DESHER: I’m really not sure. The craftsmanship is somewhat unfamiliar, as if it were imported or significantly more ancient that the people who founded Sakhmet. Well, I need to get this area secured off, this may be a major find.

     At this point Dr. Salara Desher got up and marched with purpose in the direction of her team. For a moment, I was all alone, staring into what appeared to be golden eyes peeking out from behind the veil of sand. The sun began to set, and I stared transfixed for what felt like an eternity waiting for Dr. Desher to return. Somewhere in the distance, a lone Anubis howled on a hill.

     Eventually Dr. Desher returned and kindly asked that I leave the area now so they can properly process it. But for just a minute, I felt the same wonder and awe the members of the Sakhment crew must have felt 100 years ago peering into the tomb of Coltzan II.

     I have not heard from Dr. Desher since this occasion, but we can only hope that in the near future she will announce an incredible find. In the meantime, keep your eyes on the dunes, you’ll never know what might be out there.

 
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