An Archeological Race Against Time

The meeting with Ravenscroft was taking an unexpected turn. Reaching into a box, she pulls out a skull with one hand and with the other slides a flimsy, dull looking metal plate onto its forehead.  She muses, “One, two thousand years ago she was buried with a fine silver plate. Now it’s more silver oxide than anything.” Her “office” has dozens of neatly organized piles of stones placed throughout the room on sturdy bench tables, and boxes everywhere… perhaps more bones.  Open, screenless windows provide the only light.

Still holding the skull and pondering who she might be holding she quotes Shakespeare, “Yorick I knew him well… Look at the teeth, she probably used them to chew leather.” Who was this person that lived so long ago? Poor enough in life to use her teeth to make leather softer, yet respected enough in death to be buried with such finery?  Perhaps just as perplexing, who was this woman whose office I now stood in?

Eric and I had been in country for nearly two weeks.  Having just accomplished our primary mission of testing our newly engineered bomb detection equipment deep in the Lao jungles of Sepon, I had made the two flights to get to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, to meet the National Museum’s Marion Ravenscroft (pictured above, with umbrella).

Marion went over to a window, lit a cigarette and blew a couple of clouds of smoke politely out the window.  About my age, this Aussie expat with thick-rimmed glasses had a sense of urgency written all over her face.  She needed to save Laos’ past from its future.  That’s what rescue archeology is all about.  Her commitment is indefatigable as she coordinates entire archeological digs on budgets so miniscule as to be comparable to a couple months rent in Manhattan, often working under crushing timeframes of a few days. It’s no coincidence Indiana Jones’s love interest in the first Indiana Jones film is a woman named Marion Ravenwood.

-continues from newsflash here-

Marion had a job for us.  The government had just granted her a twenty day window to perform an archeological survey and rescue on a two acre plot of land along the Mekong River before the construction of a school would begin.  She wanted us to use our EM equipment to perform a survey to help locate metallic targets, perhaps artifacts.  It was an ancient plot of land, used by humans for thousands of years.  Back in the 1500’s Vientiane was a walled city with only one way in from the Mekong River: the fortified City Gate.  Marion believes that the remains of this entrance gate are buried at this soon to be construction site.  The leather chewer’s skull had been found nearby.  This was most definitely an important site.  If we didn’t hurry everything else might be lost forever.

When a project like this comes your way it’s impossible to say no. Unfortunately I had other business to attend to back in the States.  I flew back, but left Aqua Survey’s Eric Smith behind onsite to perform an EM survey and assist in the recovery of relics.

The survey has been completed.  There were over 60 metal targets identified.  Ten of the targets in a row are probably a forgotten modern pipeline.  The other 50 are more promising.  In the coming days much will be revealed.

Look for an update next week.

-Ken Hayes, President Aqua Survey, Inc.

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