Awards and Prizes:
🥇 First Place in the Phoenix Awards
🥈 Second Place in the Coalition Community Awards (2020)
🥈 Second Place in the Masters & Legends Awards (2021)
🥉 Third Place in the Flower Awards
🏆 Honorable Mention in the Strawberry Milkshake Awards
Special Category (not genre specific):
🏆 Honorable Mention for the Best Overall Book in the Masters & Legends Awards (2021)
⭐️ Most Original in the Strawberry Milkshake Awards
👩❤️💋👨 Best Relationship in the Phoenix Awards
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The Time Trilogy:
~ The Archaeologist [complete]
~ The Brave [complete, editing]
~ The Time Traveler [work-in-progress]
= * = * =
© All Rights Reserved.
This book is copyrighted by Gwen Thames.
Use of any part of this book without express permission from the author is prohibited.
= * = * =
CHAPTER ONE: THE ARCHAEOLOGIST
Avebury Cave Excavation Site
= * = * =
“Debbie, I need you, Dave, Roger, and Lucy to get started on the north side of the cave entrance today. Just dig down a little below the surface soil until I can come take a look.” Samantha rattles off instructions to the first group of students.
“We’re on it!” Debbie replies with enthusiasm as she ushers the other three towards the cave. Samantha continues handing out assignments as the remaining students still clustered in front of the lab trailer listen for their names.
“Ted, you and everyone who helped you yesterday, can go back to cleaning up the units we finished at the end of the day. I need some good profile drawings. Have Debbie check the drawings when you’re done, and when she okays them, come get me and I’ll take some unit photos. Remember, the ruler is your friend!”
She prays the tall British university junior will get it in his head that he actually has to measure the layers of soil so that his graph paper drawings are accurate. How he’d managed to get this far along in the program was beyond her sometimes.
“Charlie, Tina - you’re both on lab duty with the Professor today.” Sophomore Tina’s curls bounce as she nods, obviously happy with her assignment.
“Do you want us to start washing the new stuff from the cave entrance yet or finish going through the artifacts from earlier this week?” Samantha’s student lead in the lab, Charlie, queries.
“No, let’s start on the entrance units today. If we get rained out on Friday, then we can finish processing the other finds. We need to know what’s inside the cave sooner rather than later, and that’s our doorstep inside.” Finished with assigning tasks, she looks at those still standing around and says with enthusiasm, “Alright everyone, hop to it! I’ll be in my office if you need me.”
Now by herself, Samantha relaxes a bit. After only a week and a half on site, the nerves she arrived in England with as the new American summer field school professor are only starting to subside.
“You’ve got this,” she repeats in her mind for the millionth time, trying to buoy her sense of leadership despite her fish-out-of-water feelings.
She walks up the metal steps leading into the large trailer serving as the laboratory and offices for both her and the British professor. Their home away from home for the next few months. Before going inside, she turns, resting her arms on the blue painted metal rail and faces the site, bustling with the twenty-some students under her purview.
For a second, she closes her eyes, basking in the feel of the cool morning air, while listening to the chorus of archaeological music - shovels striking the ground, trowels scraping the soil, leather-gloved hands pushing soil through screens, orders being given and the quiet chatter and laughter coming from the crew tending to their units.
Refocusing on the sight in front of her, she can’t help but smile just a bit at the large, dark mouth of the cave set into the side of a not-so-tall and gently sloping hill, only a short distance away. Once again, she allows the fact that she’s actually excavating the site she’d only dreamed of digging for the last several years sink in.
“Tuppence for your thoughts.” Professor Waddington’s now-familiar sage-like voice pulls her from her thoughts and she turns to greet the elderly scholar and her British counterpart, who’d somehow managed to exit the trailer without her hearing.
Clearing her throat, she replies. “Oh, not much. Just taking in everything and wondering how I got to be so lucky.” She tucks a lock of her shoulder length auburn hair behind her ear and returns her gaze towards the site known as Avebury Cave.
“Luck had nothing to do with it, my dear,” the professor acknowledges matter-of-factly as he rests his reading glasses on top of his balding head. “It was all timing and your own hard work. You got noticed for it, that’s all.” Then he adds with a smirk, “And maybe the alignment of the stars had just a little something to do with it.”
Samantha laughs out a breath as the man, decades her senior and everything an eccentric scholar should be, attempts to squash her apparent apprehension.
“Don’t tell anyone,” she says with a slightly lowered voice, “but I sorta feel like a cop out. I mean, sure I know everything there is to know about Avebury Cave, and the Neolithic is my specialty, but seriously, I haven’t done any real excavating in England since I was a college student myself. And that was about fifteen years ago! Now, here I am in England teaching the stuff!”
“Pfft.” Professor Waddington huffs. “Dirt is dirt. Just because you’ve dug a hole in England or Timbuktu, doesn’t mean you’re an expert on the archaeology of the land there. Sure, you might not be keen to all the nuances of Avebury subsoil, but you’ve already situated yourself nicely. Don’t kid yourself, I’ve played in the dirt for over forty years and I’ve an eye for good archaeologists. You’re definitely one of ’em.”
Samantha blushes modestly, knowing he has a point and simply nods her head, then takes a deep breath and inhales the fresh morning air of the British countryside, lush with green fields and dotted with sporadic outcroppings of rock.
Looking back at the cave again longingly, she can’t help but feel her heart swell. So far, having been selected for the University College London’s summer archaeology educator exchange program has been a dream come true, though at times she can’t help but feel like she might really be dreaming and will wake up at any moment.
“You know, young lady, for someone who claims to feel unworthy of leading this site, you’re quite passionate about it.” He’d apparently caught her staring at the cave in wonderment. “I had expected your enthusiasm to wane a bit after the first week, yet here you are still ogling the cave like it’s the Great Pyramid of Giza.” He eyes her speculatively and she gives him a little shrug in return. “Are you this enthusiastic about all your digs, or is the cave just that special?”
The young professor smirks, amused by the question. “Yeah, I’d like to say that I’m sorta popular with the students back in Baltimore for my winsome personality and enthusiasm for the craft of archaeology.” She laughs under her breath, obviously trying to joke with her colleague. Then, a bit more seriously, she adds, “No, the Neolithic and specifically the Avebury Cave have been my primary pet research for the last several years now. So, I’m probably a teeny bit more excited about it than the more contemporary sites back home.”
“Mmm,” Professor Waddington grunts in reply, not expecting her to blatantly brag so about herself, while also enjoying her American sense of humor. “Well, let’s take some of that energy inside, shall we?”
Scrunching up her nose a bit, Samantha acquiesces, turning away from her perfect view of the cave and following the Professor inside. “Okay, but I will never be enthusiastic about using the metric system to measure units on the mapping database! I’d much rather be digging a hole instead.”
He laughs heartily in response. “You’ve caught on better than your predecessor, and you only have four of the eight units outside of the cave left to map. I have faith in you.”
Heading to the office she shares with Professor Waddington, she blows out her breath, thinking that she’d better find some energy for the mapping software if she has any hope of being invited back again next summer. She hadn’t lied, she really would like to be out there digging, but field directors had far too much to do to keep the excavation going and on schedule.
She begins by opening Professor Waddington’s database, scanning the growing list of cataloged artifacts, realizing that while the amount of artifacts has been fair, nothing too unusual or exceptionally rare for the time periods known to inhabit the area has been found. Reminding herself that they’ve only just begun the excavation, she tries not to feel too discouraged that they haven’t found any evidence of more advanced technologies. Technology that would be unusual for the Neolithic, like the finds the previous expedition had encountered fifteen years ago.
“Archaeology is about recording history as you find it, not creating a story you hope happened,” she repeats her first archaeology professor’s adamant declaration to never get one’s hopes up and focus solely on a particular outcome, as she clicks her mouse to open the GeoArch mapping program.
At home in Baltimore, it was an easy mantra to follow and one she’d instituted in her own work thereafter. But, now that she’s here, it’s suddenly becoming difficult to keep that open mind.
“I know it’s here… I just have to be patient and wait till we can get further into the cave. And, of course, there’s the trash pit that we’ve just started on. If any evidence is to be found, it’ll be there.”
Updating the locations she wants the students to start digging next week on the interactive map, she determines that if the cave was in fact inhabited by people, the area just inside the front of the cave would have been the optimal location for a fire pit or hearth. The distance from the cave entrance would allow smoke to get out and the fire to stay dry, yet still warm the cave.
As she finishes the notations for this point on the map, she interrupts the Professor who’s concentrating on identifying artifacts at his desk at the opposite end of the room. With his head under a bright lamp as he examines some fragmented objects under a magnifying glass, she asks. “Do you think a whole family could’ve lived in there? In the cave? It seems a little small for that, doesn’t it, Professor?”
He looks up from the tiny brownish-colored ceramic sherd, furrowing his brows as he refocuses his eyes to look at the younger woman. “I don’t know. After we got it all cleared out to excavate, I thought it seemed a bit smallish, too. At least for a decent sized family, which would possibly have included extended family members. It’s a little bit of a distance from where we know the main village originated in the 3600s BC, and most families wouldn’t have lived so far away once the village was established.”
“Do you think it might have been more of a ritualistic place then? For ceremonies or something?” Samantha presses.
“That’s a possibility, though it’s a bit small for many people to gather for a ceremony, too. You know though, sometimes the local medicine woman or ‘witch’ would have lived on her own. People would generally travel a great distance to find her to heal ailments or conjure up spells for them if they needed them badly enough. She would have usually lived in seclusion since most people would have been a bit leery of her.”
Waving his magnifying glass in the air with inspiration, he continues with another idea, “Or, our mystery inventor could have been someone who was cast off from the village and banished because of a bad deed.”
Hesitating, he shakes his head. “On the other hand, a lot of the artifacts we’re finding predate the village, and even the megaliths slightly, so probably not a villager. I have a feeling it was most likely a solitary and temporary home during the time period when people were more nomadic. It could have been an old hermit genius for all we know.”
“Hmm,” Samantha acknowledges his thoughts. “That doesn’t narrow it down a lot, but I do kinda like the idea of a local witch or healer. Wouldn’t she have had more unique artifacts? You know, like things only the healer would have access to for sacred or religious reasons?”
The Professor gives her a pondering look before answering. “Could be, but most witches in that era were dealing in herbs and spells, not inventions like Da Vinci’s flying machine.”
Wrinkling her nose, Samantha concedes, “Yeah, you’ve got a point.” Her mystery didn’t seem to want to be revealed too easily.
Sighing, she turns back to her computer, examining the outlined area of the cave interior on the map, trying to determine what it was used for. Giving up for a minute, she leaves the office, stepping inside the artifact washroom to check on the girls she’d sent in earlier.
“Charlie, when are we supposed to get those large lights in? They should’ve been here already, and I want to see inside the cave before we need to start digging in there next week.”
“I’ll call the company now,” the girl who’d refused to be called her given name, Charlene, replies, wiping her hands on a paper towel. “I reordered them on Monday, right after we discovered the order had been canceled, and they said they were going to expedite the shipping.”
“Good. Thanks! Let me know if they still haven’t shipped and I’ll see what I can do.”
Worried that the lack of proper lighting would push back the excavations inside the cave, Samantha tries to figure out how they should proceed in the meantime, if push came to shove. While what they were finding outside the cave was important to the archaeology of the overall site, the real story would most likely be revealed on the interior. She didn’t want to delay getting her trowel in there any longer than she had to.