The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Two: Morgan's Surprise

July 2023
University of Richmond
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

“Ugh, I need coffee!” Morgan Walters thinks aloud. “Mondays are bad enough, but muggy, rainy Mondays are just pure evil!”

Traffic near Richmond City University at this time of day is ridiculous and Morgan just wants to get to work already. At least she makes her own hours, and being Summer Semester means that she has the lab virtually to herself. So if she’s late, no one cares - except for her.

She finally pulls into the staff parking lot, grabbing her umbrella and sticking it out the car door to open it before exiting her graphite colored Jeep Renegade. Not having to impress anyone today, she wore jeans and a gray tee, though now regrets not wearing boots instead of the cute flats she chose, as the rain puddles are now small lakes after having rained for the last three days straight.

Dodging the big puddles, she makes it to the Anthropology Department wing and ducks under the overhanging just as the deluge of rain starts up heavier again. Pulling her keys from her purse, she unlocks the door, closes her umbrella, and makes her way down the hall and up the stairs to the Archaeology Lab where she works.

The first floor was reserved for the entire department’s classrooms and Anthropology Staff offices, whereas the upper floor housed the offices for both Archaeology professors, the lab where the Archaeology students received hands-on experience, and the extensive artifact storage rooms where various objects that the university had collected or been given over the last 100 years were protected and displayed for study.

Morgan was thrilled to be able to transition straight into the job as Archaeology Lab Manager for the Anthropology Department after graduating from RCU with her Master’s Degree in Archaeology two years ago. As somewhat of an introvert, Summer Semester was her favorite, as it not only allowed her time to catch up on the lab while the professors and students were away at field school, but it was extra quiet. When the fall semester begins in September, Morgan will have a mess load of work to do with students around again.

While she doesn’t mind assisting with students in the lab, what she loves the most is helping the professors research objects and cataloging artifacts from various excavation sites. Senior year archaeology students report to her, and they, in turn, are tasked to babysit and train the other students, suiting her just fine. Though she enjoys the university atmosphere, she likes the fact that she doesn’t have a lot of hands-on with the students and can conduct her work with minimal supervision.

The school’s only Archaeology professors, Daniel Clark and Samantha Warner, routinely use objects from the university’s artifact collection as examples in their classes, and sometimes faculty members from the Anthropology classes and other courses will request objects or for tours of various collections, so keeping track of the artifacts’ locations during the other semesters is always a difficult and ongoing task.

This summer, the students are with the elderly Dr. Clark excavating a Mesoamerican site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The previous two summers, students had been split up with some going to England for field work at Neolithic sites like Stonehenge, and the rest going with Dr. Clark to Mexico or South America. But Dr. Warner, the Neolithic expert, is on maternity leave having had her baby only three weeks ago.

Running her hands through her dampish short blond locks, Morgan turns on the radio and starts the coffee maker, tugging on her gray knit pullover as it’s always chilly in the lab. She pulls her black rimmed glasses out of the case on her desk so she can read the labels on the trays.

Having been farsighted since she was in the first grade, Morgan got used to the other kids teasing her about her glasses, but as a college student in a more scientific field of study, she soon learned how to use fashion sense to make her glasses work for her, not against her. Though hanging on the outskirts of being a nerd, Morgan maintains a decent balance of societal norms, getting along with the true ‘geeks’ and the ‘cool kids’ alike - and pretty much everyone else in between.

Just as she’s about to decide which group of artifacts she’s wants to start cataloging this morning, the phone rings.

“RCU Archaeology Lab, how can I help you?” She answers in an upbeat tone.

“Morgan, this is Dr. Clark,” she recognizes the familiar, gravely sound Dr. Clark, who is also her direct supervisor, as well as the Archaeology Department’s senior faculty member in both age and tenure.

“Oh, hi Professor! How are you?”

“Good, good. Did you have a good weekend?” Even though he was usually frazzled or on the go, Dr. Clark always took the time to be personable with staff and students alike, making him popular among both groups.

Morgan nonchalantly replies, “Oh, it wasn’t bad - I just chillaxed. More importantly, how’s it going at the site?!”

He replies with humorous sarcasm, “Oh, just peachy! I’m getting too old for these summer hiatuses - these kids are hard to keep up with!”

Morgan laughs, “Aw, you’re not that old! How’s the weather?”

“It’s Mexico in the summer, so it’s hot.” Then he changes the subject, “Hey, I forgot to tell you that I left you a little surprise in my office before I left on Wednesday. It was found by a farmer recently, and he dropped it by to see if we could identify it.”

“Oh? Anything cool?” Morgan asks with interest.

“Yeah, I’d say so. I didn’t have time to look at it real good, but I want you to see what you think - it’s more your specialty.”

When he doesn’t say anything more, she prods with a smile, “Okay...? You’re not going to tell me what it is?”

“No, I’ll let you figure it out. You’ve got to be bored out of your mind with no one else around,” he finishes obviously giving her a hard time for the fun of it.

She laughs good-naturedly, “Well, I do love a good surprise! Especially an archaeological one! I’ll let you know what I figure out.”

“Good! Well, adios for now! I’ll call again later in the week to see how you’re doing, but you can always email me if you need anything. I’ve got one of these kids setting up the internet on my laptop today.”

Morgan shakes her head fondly at the technologically-disadvantaged professor, and simply replies, “Good luck Professor! Find lots of good stuff, okay!?”

“Right! Bye!”

Morgan hangs up the phone and heads directly for Dr. Clark’s office, wondering what sort of artifact the farmer dropped off. Oftentimes these types of queries are nothing but a naturally odd shaped stone, or something modern that has no archaeological significance. And then there were exceptions.

Opening the door to the office that is at the back of the Archaeology suite of storage and display rooms, she spies a small box sitting on the desk with a note reading:

Ned Billings 609 Harpers Rd
Redwater, Virginia
(804) 555-7221

Below the address is the Professor’s messy handwriting: For Morgan.

“This must be it! What type of goody are you?” She muses aloud.

Opening the lid, Morgan sees a flat, gray, oblong rock approximately 4-inches in length and two in width. But what catches her attention are the two perfectly round holes drilled in the near-center.

“Oh, wow!” She exclaims with excitement; this was definitely one of the exceptions.

}}}-----> * <-----{{{

A picture of the gorget can be seen on the cover of this book, and is of an actual gorget that was excavated at a site I worked on!

Unfortunately, no handsome warrior came along with it! :(

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