Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Archaeological Find of a Century

Report by Sir Wallace Haasenfeffer MXLVI, PHD.

By Jove, todays dig manifested itself in a way that nearly made my cup of earl grey upturn itself onto my favorite pair of plaid trousers. For the last month, my team of non english speaking minions has been painstakingly excavating a site that looked promising, but I hadn't the slightest what kind of treasure awaited us. The days were long and hot, the air was gritty, the camels were sweaty. I could barely stand the blaring rays of the luminous orb above us, so I adjusted my shade umbrella and asked Sharif to please pour me another Whiskey on the rocks.

The site revealed a black parcel woven in surprisingly durable cloth which, although there were some holes and minor tears,had survived the ages of use and abuse swimmingly. I carefully examined the mechanism which kept it closed and discovered that thieves must have already pillaged this site - one of the sacred seals was broken, but the second was left in tact and as we chanted the ancient parcel opening mantram, the device came open with a satisfying click.

This occurence came after many long nights of whiskey and investingating the near indecipherable script at the top of the parcel. My first impression was that it was Aramaic. After a few more whiskeys I was under the impression that instead it was some form of ugaritic. After some more whiskey I was under the table and I let Sharif take over the deciphering of the mysterious text. It seemed to be a very short phrase, or perhaps a long name - maybe even a ROYAL name.

After a bloody mary or three, I finally was able to identify the indo-european roots of the language and successfully translated the script on the bag as:
SISTER MACHINE GUN 6.0.

For those of us who speak the modern tongue, this phrase makes little sense, or course. I was puzzled by the seemingly random coagulation of words. How is SISTER related to MACHINE GUN? Did these ancient people have such technology that they had manufactured a primitive machine gun? Would that make them a war-like race? And what of the 6.0? I was fairly sure it was some sort of date, but first I felt the need to consult with Jack Daniels on the precise source of the numbers. 6.0 - if this was BC then indeed this puts our history in quite a new perspective - this race might well be advanced beyond any previously known. If it was 6.0 AD it was still a find, and meant an advanced society had produced it, though not quite as nifty.

I came to the conclusion however, that I was dealing with some kind of arcane idiom that would be lost to me in the sands of time, unless I found another set of inscriptions. The 6.0 did seem to be an important kind of dating system, perhaps a way of numbering not unlike that of the egyptian pharoahs who began numbering years at the time of accession.

The initial opening of the parcel was rather disappointing, as the thieves seemed to have taken most of the contents already. Sharif consoled me with a mint julip. Apart from some thick layering of carbon and some mummified food stuffs (no doubt preserved for the presumed travel to the underworld), there seemed little of consequence. Upon turning the bag over and hearing some clattering and tinkling, I was convinced that we had not exhausted our search for treasure. We let the camels eat the mummified food (which caused them diarhea to no end) and continued to dig.

Wassar - a rather skinny boy wearing a loincloth, handed me a large Mai Tai as he prepared to undergo a dangerous portion of the excavation. There was a tear in the bag through which he had spotted a small hole, and he was going to explore it further. Deftly he wended his girlish wrist into the gaping maw of blackness, and not without a look of panic, mind you.

His face suddenly lit up as he began to draw his hand back outwards. We gathered around as he opened his palm to reveal some round objects half covered in black goo, but glinting with an unmistakable metallic sheen!

I bought everyone a round of drinks that night at the habeebubeba bellydacing cafe and leg waxing bar. We had found the hidden treasure of Sister Machine Gun 6.0.
Before I sobering up I found myself kissing a camel, but my thoughts were of the glory that lay within the black parcel.

We continued to dig, and found that most of the objects were covered with what seemed to be bitumen, or pitch. Bowls with water and small brushes were used to scrape away the encrusted layer upon each item. My coffee tasted more bitter than usual soon after.

One by one an astounding array of precious objects emerged, tantalizing my imagination. Piece by piece we recovered items of an ancient life, and only as we assembled all these objects would we be able to conjecture who the owner of the mysterious parcel might be. Perhaps something within would give a hidden clue to its enigmatic message.

Sharif guided me to the shaded table where the excavated items had been cleaned and reassembled. After sweeping my bloodshot eyes over the array of relics, I could think only that this parcel had belonged to either a noble, or perhaps a cleric due to the amount of wealth within.

My team had recovered the following:

two silver? metallic objects, several inches in length. At first I thought they were some sort of cosmetic applicators, but Sharif believed that they were in fact implements used for eating. One of them featured three prominent teeth which would be useful for spearing food, the other looked like a tiny bowl with a handle. The craftsmanship was impeccable for both of these.

Several different kinds of precious stones and beads were recovered. There was a large amount of hematite, both in the form of polished stones and drilled beads. The cord on which the beads were strung together had apparently decayed away. The second most common stone was rose quartz, which again was found as loose stones, and as beads. The rose quartz beads were thankfully still intact on their resident string. I toasted Sharif with a jager bomb and wished him many long wives.

There were also two polished pieces of red and yellow tiger's eye, a flake of red agate, obsidian, and what appears to be citrine.

Whether these stones were for ritual use or were part of some sort of funereal decoration is not clear, and research into the culture from which these relics surfaced will be necessary to discern the precise purpose.

Several coins of various metals that proved to be copper, silver and nickel were also unearthed. The artistry of the heads upon these ancient coins was astounding! And the carvings so delicate. I can only assume that their value must be beyond belief in this day and age.

Other beads were also found, but of am unidentifiable material which was often a bright orange. There were very few and one cannot tell if these were part of a necklace or bracelet.

Upon a circular metal ring were found several ancient keys which were in surprisingly good condition! Oh that this old man could see the marvelous rooms which were surely guarded by these mysterious keys.

A rather disturbing piece of jewelry was found - a ring for a very small finger that was finely crafted in white bronze - rearing up from the top of the ring was a large talon - very formidable looking indeed. I have the distinct impression that this ring was most surely a ritual object, and was quite possibly used for sacrifices. The ring was remarkably clean and needed little polishing however, so perhaps it may have been a fetish for the protection of its wearer in the underworld.

The strangest artefact, which most certainly alters the proposed date of the parcel, was something that I did not expect to find. A funerary object from ancient egypt- known as a ushabti (statues of workers placed in the tombs of kings and nobles who would serve them in the afterlife) was present. How odd indeed. Five whiskies and a hot toddy could not help to overcome my puzzlement.

The owner of this bag was at the very least contemporary with the ushabti, or older, but not by much. This was the first time ever in a dig that I had been witness to an artefact of a completely different culture turning up. Because of the riches in this parcel, the presence of the egyptian fetish must surely indicate that the owner was in fact a noble or a royal. The culture of the owner seemed to have been educated enough to be aware of the ancient egyptians, and therefore the tiny statue must be serving the same purpose for which it had been intended.

With these thoughts in mind and a pint in my hand, I set down my hypothesis that Sister Machine Gun was an idiom of sorts, but most likely was some sort of official or royal title. the 6.0 was not a year, as I previously had thought, but more like a kingly number - as in Tuthmosis the third, or Rameses the second.

The parcel and its contents were taken to the british museum for further study, so scholars like myself can wear disgusting bowties and drink at all hours of the day whilst further studying these precious reminders of the distant past. Only after raising a cloud of dust from decaying books and spouting incoherent gibberish in an indecipherable cockney accent can one properly discern the precise circumstances in which such a priceless artefact existed.

The story of the black parcel does not end here - it has only begun. I will continue to keep all of you - my peers, my bartenders, and my houseboys dressed in thongs abreast of the new developments that occur everyday in my research of this forgotten parcel.

I say to you, adieu for now. God bless, and someone bring me a plate of spotted dick with a big glass of bourbon.

Sir walllceekkmfooopooo

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