Kim kneaded the muscles in her lower neck while gingerly making circular motions with her head. She could feel the tension dissipate, but not by much. Envisioning a long soak in a hot and fragranced bath, she nearly purred over the yearning. An oaky flavoured full-bodied red or a mild Merlot would be the perfect accompaniment to soft classical music as the water worked its wonders on her body.
She sighed in expectation of a little down time, then immediately reprimanded her leisurely imagination for dreaming up such a thing. It would happen, she told herself, but not soon enough. It definitely would not happen today and possibly not for another fortnight. At best, if she was lucky, she might get a four minute dousing under the makeshift shower back in camp. It was not enough to do anything other than rinse away the most obvious of the day’s grit, and certainly not long enough to give her mop of curly black hair a decent wash.
Kim was never a woman overly concerned about superficial details, but she could not deny it, she looked a shambles. Her olfactory senses either grew too accustomed to, or chose to abandon the pungent odour shrouding her body resulting from the day’s dig. In a way, Kim was glad. She feared to catch a whiff of how she actually smelt. Instead, she preferred ignorance were that was concerned. And ignoring it was not too difficult as she continued shovelling and scraping, brushing, dusting and excavating along with the rest of the grimy crew.
Being sweaty and filthy among many sweaty and filthy people had its benefits. For one: out of necessity, it did no good to complain. For two: what did she expect? Yes, she had dreams of how the dig would go, she always had, but they never fully prepared her for the thousands of small things she took for granted. She never thought she would have an hour’s conversation about yearning for shampoo and conditioner, or the comfort of a proper toilet seat instead of the dug out latrines everybody shared.
It was their ninth pit, but nothing useful turned up since pit four unearthed a fragment of pottery expected and hoped to be from the Neolithic period. Its unearthing gave everybody a lift, but five digs later she wondered if it was planted by the lead archaeologist. It would be just like Dr Jane Manning to use such tactics.
No, Kim did not really believe that. It was tiredness speaking and the frustration at not finding anything of value. Dr Jane Manning was a leading expert in her field. She was revered by saints and sinners alike. Even the few who were critical of her theories dared not mention her as anything but a committed genius. When Kim first heard she had been accepted as part of the team, she was ecstatic. She knew being proposed to by a knight in shining armour would never match that moment.
She did not know what to expect of the Dr Manning. They say never meet your idols, and Kim understood why. The leading archaeologist was a bitch to work for. She was rude, obnoxious and threw tantrums to put a five-year old to shame. Seldom, did she acknowledge those like Kim: a lesser minion. The reality of life on an expedition quickly ended any romantic notions she ever had. Kim soon gave up the notion of trying to please Dr Manning and used the expedition as a fountain of experience. It was a shallow and limp fountain, but a fountain none the less.
Kim wiped her brow with her forearm and squinted at the sun. She judged an hour, perhaps a little more, until time was called on the day’s labours. Foolishly, she believed her dark skin would be a bonus in such a climate, but no. It did stop her from burning raw like some of her fairer skinned companions, but her ethnical makeup contributed zip in terms of adapting to such high temperatures. And the nights could be damningly cold too.
Unscrewing the lid off her canteen, she took a long gulp of the tepid water. She knew she should only sip, but couldn’t help it. She allowed herself the luxury of sagging to the earth and resting for a while in the shadows of the four-meter earth wall which surrounded her twelve by thirty yard trench. The other members of her team were caught up in a heated debate with the Geo-Phis guys’ findings. Their arguments buzzed distantly in the air. Kim pictured them as children quarrelling about the site location.
‘The findings are wrong.’
And frowning disapprovingly, ready to intervene if things got out of hand was Dr Jane Manning, the wizened old headmistress.
Being the junior member, Kim remained behind carrying on with the grunt work. Mapping her progress on the chart with every few meters she covered. On larger digs they usually brought along a field artist, but the funds just were not there for this escapade. Every member had to double up on tasks. She was not complaining though, apart from a rough outline of shaded earth she had nothing challenging to depict.
Thinking outside of the box, she appreciated how ridicules being an archaeologist could be perceived. Digging away in the middle of nowhere to see if some wild theory was true was hardly a convincing argument to persuade anybody of its benefits to modern society. And if it was did anybody really care? Did it matter that some Nomadic tribe that very few people ever heard of actually smelted iron outside of their established terrorises? Or that a Pic fishing village once lay beneath a Roman Villa in the outer regions of Gaul? In the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter an ounce. Even though every archaeologist would fight tooth and nail to claim it did, Kim knew better.
Despite the self-righteous, monotonous drool her fellow muck scrapers claimed as necessary, they all did this for one reason: to find the next Tutankhamen burial site, or the next Book of Kells.
Although she was the least experienced on the crew, she too had her theories where the next big breakthrough could be found, and she would bet her last penny all the others did too. Like her, they would keep their ideas secreted away in case they ever became fortunate enough to earn the prestige, or gain considerable backing, to go off and explore.
She took another sip of water and allowed herself to dream of the day when she would unearth some forgotten treasures. But more importantly, she wanted to take full credit for doing so instead of hoping to gain a footnote in someone else’s field journal or bestselling biography. She doubted the chances of it happening any time soon.
Scanning the different levels of Terra Firma, her mind calculated each step of coloured soil (from top to bottom) over thousands of years. Aware of the evolution of the land and how the landmass had shifted over time, she could not imagine the dig site as having been anything other than a desolate wasteland. Thirty thousand years and the only thing ever to happen in the spot she now sat was her sitting there. It was not hard to believe at all. Maybe her bum prints would be discovered in several thousands years from then by some contractor wanting to turn the very site into a theme park.
She could see the look of anxiousness on the construction workers’ faces as they waited and waited for the future archaeologists to reveal their findings and give the go ahead to cement the whole area in.
Even then, the archaeologists would still have the same dreams; hoping her ass markings led to the greatest discovery since the remains of the mysterious fall of the McDonalds Empire.
The sun was creeping off to the horizon, and Kim figured it was time to do likewise. On reaching the far end of the trench where the ladders waited propped against the earth wall, something caught her eye. She was not sure, but concealed within the dirt near the base of the ladder was a shape unusual for its surroundings. They had worked the same spot earlier that morning, but the sun made scrutiny hard as it reflected of the yellowy earth layer. Now cast in shadow, the profile stuck out.
Kneeling down, she examined the small clump. Although protocol demanded she use her chalk spray to mark the area before getting her team leader to examine it, she needed this. If it were nothing, there would be little harm done; however, if it was of any value, all lack of etiquette would be overlooked, or so she hoped.
Kim carefully used the tip of her trowel to scrape away the earth surrounding the object. Little by little flakes of ancient soil gave way until an inch chunk of curved clay protruded proudly. Her heart was racing by the time she used her water spray to dampen the find. It may have been minute, plane and just a fragment of pottery, but right then it was more precious to her than the Rosetta Stone.