Excerpt–At the Dig in Hearts in Ruin

In HEARTS IN RUIN, a Midwestern college archaeology team takes up a Southwestern dig with some unusual characteristics. Following is an excerpt providing just a taste of the project and the conflicts in play. The scene takes place as routines are beginning to set in. Andrea and Daniel have had a recent intimate moment, but have not discussed it since. Andrea is skeptical of Daniel’s theories about the age of the site. But in this scene, Andrea discovers something she doesn’t expect–in fact, something far outside her expectations that changes the course of conflicts in the story.


Under the mid-morning sun, Andrea helped Chloe and Courtney with an interesting shard. She noted the position and strata evidence and corrected Chloe’s photographic technique. But the item seemed, even though the evidence was sound, to be in the wrong place.

She scanned the area. The strata was clear. She decided to check it against the vertical. Daniel was there, lost in thought. “You mind?” she interrupted.

He looked slightly startled. “No, of course not.”

Andrea stepped past him.

He jotted notes in a field book, closed it, and walked away toward the lab tent.

Is he trying not to talk?

Andrea shrugged it off. She reviewed the strata and crouched at the two-thirds point. A strata mix caught her eye. Where the lines should have continued consistently from one side to the other, a gap appeared, line after line, creating a very thin column of earth-tone that interrupted the lines. It appeared to be a hole—a hole that had been carefully dug and filled ages ago. Only the smallest part of it showed. The vertical trench had either almost completely dug up what had been the fill in the ancient hole, or, if she was lucky, had only barely sliced into it. She scraped slightly. The column broadened. Most of the hole and its fill were still there, intact. Yes! These were the nuggets of the past archaeologists lived for. She took photos and notes, meticulously recording all pertinent data, and then traced the column to its bottom, searching for whatever had been, hopefully, buried there.

In her experience, not many things were buried during the Clovis period. She might find remains. That would be a score. She might find trash. Also a score from an archaeological perspective. But when she located the bottom, she noted an object that might not be either. She brushed away at it, taking notes and photos as she progressed.

Finally, the nature of the small object was clear. A small vessel. A bowl. It was wrapped in something, leaves, large leaves, something organic. But the entire setup was puzzling. Even the top of the hole was too low according to Daniel’s numbers. But there it was. There were clear, unbroken strata directly above it. The hole had been dug unbelievably early. Pre-Clovis.

She studied the artifact in place. It appeared to have artwork, but also…no, that wouldn’t be possible, not for something this old. It had to be something else. But its markings had the unmistakable characteristics of…written language?