History was Buried: Great Discoveries in Archaeology by Margaret Wheeler

An excerpt from the book History Was Buried: Great Discoveries in Archaeology by Margaret Wheeler.

HISTORY WAS BURIED: GREAT DISCOVERIES IN ARCHAEOLOGY. By Margaret Wheeler, ed. New York: Hart, 1967.

About the book: This fascinating and very readable book assembles the writings of some of the foremost archaeologists of all times on their most famous discoveries. Included is the uncovering of treasure ships, royal tombs, the Dead Sea Scrolls, prehistoric caves with ancient drawings on the walls, and many more. The author precedes each story with a synopsis of the events that led up to the discovery, the conditions under which the dig was organized, and a statement as to why the find is important.

From the book: [The British Egyptologist Howard Carter tells of one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of modern times--the discovery of the tomb of a young Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, who ruled Egypt for a few years beginning in 1357 B.C.:] Slowly, desperately slowly it seemed to us as we watched, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway were removed, until at last we had the whole door clear before us. The decisive moment had arrived. With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner. Darkness and blank space, as far as an iron testing-rod could reach, showed that whatever lay beyond was empty and not filled like the passage we had just cleared. Candle tests were applied as a precaution against possible foul gases, and then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in. . . . At 1st I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold--everywhere the glint of gold. . . . I suppose most excavators would confess to a feeling of awe--embarrassment almost--when they break into a chamber closed and sealed by pious hands so many centuries ago. For the moment, time as a factor in human life has lost its meaning. Three thousand, 4 thousand years maybe, have passed and gone since human feet last trod the floor on which you stand, and yet, as you note the signs of recent life around you--the half-filled bowl of mortar for the door, the blackened lamp, the fingermark upon the freshly painted surface, the farewell garland dropped upon the threshold--you feel it might have been but yesterday. The very air you breathe, unchanged throughout the centuries, you share with those who laid the mummy to its rest. Time is annihilated by little intimate details such as these, and you feel an intruder. That is perhaps the 1st and dominant sensation, but others follow thick and fast--the exhilaration of discovery, the fever of suspense, the almost overmastering impulse, born of curiosity, to break down seals and lift the lids of boxes, the thought--pure joy to the investigator--that you are about to add a page to history, or solve some problem of research, the strained expectancy--why not confess it?--of the treasure-seeker.

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