After a day of digging, or rather, carefully brushing sand around to avoid losing any artifacts, most of the dig team gathers together to watch documentaries because docudramas don't cause as many disagreements over cultural differences and aesthetic issues like the foul language that is ever present in other genres of film.
Nudity, in non-fiction, is less reprehensible.
We take bets on how long it will take for Zahi Hawass, the star Egyptologist, to show up when the video topic is ancient archaeology.
There is a member of our team we all try not to look at when Zahi appears because we all swear our co-worker and Zahi must shop in the same stores as they have the same staple wardrobe of khaki hats and blue jean shirts.
In one vignette Zahi explains how during mummification the organs are removed and placed in special jars while the body is emptied and dried out of all soft tissue.
I wonder if those early medical examiners, as holy men, washed the organs as is done in modern autopsies?
An act of washing, for them, would have been more about preservation for the next life.
Well, that is the assumption I make as a weekend quarterback of antiquities.
I'm an armchair archaeologist who thought, after watching a plethora of Discovery and History Channel specials, that she should take a trip to an actual field school for the summer.
I do seem to be holding my own even if my skin burns too easily, which has garnered me the nickname of Toast.
There hasn't been a documentary on yet that I haven't seen back home, but I don't mind because it gives my mind time to wander.
While everyone else watches the TV, I scribble down ideas that I'm sure someone else has thought of; ideas that I'm afraid to ask questions about because I think I'll look ignorant to the more seasoned members of the dig team.
I am older than the other students, but younger than many of the professors.
Age, however, doesn't indicate who knows the most about history and procedure.
Compared to the 17-year-old next to me, I'm an anthropology idiot.
And yet, why do so many of them think we are different from the Egyptians?
I hear so many of the other diggers treating the artifacts like you'd treat the drawing a child would give you.
I can almost hear my “colleagues” saying, “Oh isn't that cute! Look at how they finally developed a system of belief in one God!”
“…For these pyramid builders, the conservation of a body was not for study, it was for metamorphosis…”
Do these guys ever wonder what explorers, thousands of years from now will think of our coffins and pickled, yet still desiccating dead?
Will these future historians realize that modern physicians weigh organs and take tissue samples for future analysis because death leaves questions?
Or will these distant humans think our rituals and documentation signified we were all just scared of death?
We assume our records will remain for easy interpretation, but I bet the ancient Egyptians thought the same.
The ancients believed so strongly in legacy that they dedicated themselves to building astounding monuments.
And yet, there are still segments of the population who won't give the ancients any credit for their skill and instead try to claim aliens were responsible.
Or, if not aliens, then obviously some other outside culture.
Not, of course, that we are influenced by other cultures, right?
For these pyramid builders, the conservation of a body was not for study, it was for metamorphosis.
There were no aliens.
That is my fact.
Ancient death held afterlife as a fact.
Most of modern humanity shares that belief even if we no longer wrap our facts in tight cloth.
words: Jessie Carty, North Carolina (homepage)
'Bound' was first published in Metazen
image: 'facing' -Dorothee Lang, Germany (blueprint21)
another digging into the past: Her Own Bones (#18)