Authors: Don Hoesel
Tags: #ebook, #book
Copyright © 2009
Cover design by John Hamilton Design
Scripture quotations are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of
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Published by Bethany House Publishers
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Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Elisha’s bones / Don Hoesel.
ISBN 978-0-7642-0560-6 (pbk.)
1. Archaeology teachers—Fiction. 2. Elisha (Biblical prophet)—Relics—
Fiction. 3. Christian antiquities—Fiction. 4. Secret societies—Fiction. I. Title.
Thank you for the last seventeen years.
This book wouldn’t have happened without you.
Table of Contents
KV65, THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS, EGYPT, 2003
t’s an indescribable sound when a piece of ancient stone finally gives. There’s a subtle pop, like the top of an aspirin bottle coming off to reveal that annoying wad of cotton stuffed into the plastic innards. Except that, in this case, the sound is amplified by whatever magnitude is required to testify to two tons of rock wrenching away from symbiotic stone. I think what I hear is the instant equalization of air pressure—a force that can either ease or enhance whatever stresses time has built into the coupling. It’s the moment when the whole event can result in either expectant silence, or in a violent redistribution of forces. And it all has to be in my imagination, because it’s only a romantic notion to think that the mind could process the event in real time.
Several field technicians are trying to peer into the sarcophagus through the three-inch gap made available courtesy of the removal of the two-ton slab of red granite that hangs suspended on a precarious-looking pulley mechanism. I know the machine is rated for far greater than the stone’s weight, but even that bit of professional knowledge doesn’t alleviate the fear I would have about slipping my fingers into the crack. I place my hand against the stone and press against it to stop its lazy swing. At almost four thousand pounds, even an arc of a few millimeters would put a severe dent into someone’s skull, and having worked with these young men and women for almost a month, I’m not certain that all of them are observant enough to stay out of striking distance.
It’s stifling in here; lines of sweat run down my face and soak my collar. The burial chamber is less than six and a half meters long, and there are a dozen people in it and more machinery than should be allowed at a dig, purely on principle—not to mention the five bright fluorescent lights that make casting a shadow an impossibility. I know one of the supposed benefits of these lights is that they don’t give off heat, but I’m not buying it, no matter what the brochure says.
I lean in, the stone stilled beneath my fingers, and I think that I can almost smell the cumin, thyme, and cinnamon that went into the preparation of the mummy, even through the probable two additional coffins encasing the reposing ancient. I glance around at the assembled junior members of the team, whom Jim has asked me to instruct as most of them pursue doctorates. I’m not much of a teacher—I could never hold down a professorship—yet I take pleasure in seeing the looks on the team’s faces as they enjoy this unprecedented opportunity.
KV65 is one of those rare opportunities granted to someone in my profession—a find that makes careers, that puts one in every serious journal in the field for the next decade. True, this is Jim’s baby, but he brought me in to handle the particulars, and that will yield almost as many peer accolades. It’s virtually another Tutankhamen, even down to the post-Amarna dating.
Before I can call for a flashlight, at least four click on. The mingling beams push back the blackness of the sepulcher. Leaning in close, forgetting the earlier reluctance to place my body in harm’s way, I let my eyes grow accustomed to the alternating splotches of light and shadow against the outer coffin until I can see a deep red that I recognize as ancient cypress. A few moments pass as I ponder why this is peculiar—why the sight of a wood that’s perfectly appropriate for this region, and for the time period that saw this man interred, seems wrong. And when the answer waves its little hand, I find another of those teaching opportunities I so enjoy. I ignore it.
But one of my young acolytes will not see his education shortchanged.
“Dr. Hawthorne?” Brown asks. He’s twenty-four, attached to the Smithsonian, earning a doctorate at Cornell, and might be the smartest person in this room. And I’m only slightly threatened by that. After all, the successful practice of archaeology involves more than knowledge; there’s an equal measure of luck. And after watching Brown over the last few weeks, I’m inclined to think that’s a commodity he has not stockpiled.
I straighten and motion for him to take a look, taking a step back as he crosses in front of me. I’m careful to avoid bumping his cast-encased arm.
“Interesting,” he says after a moment.
“Yep.” A quick glance around reveals that the other people in the room want in on the discussion, so I prompt post-grad Cornell. “Can you share with the rest of the class?”
“The outer coffin is just wood,” Brown says. “There’s no linen, no gold overlay. Nothing to indicate that this is anything but the burial chamber for a minor noble.”
“Which is odd because…?”
“Everything we’ve seen to this point would indicate this is a royal tomb. It’s almost spot-on Tutankhamen.”
For as much as I dislike the whole teaching aspect of this assignment, at least I’ve caught on to one of the tricks practiced by genuine academics: allowing my most-qualified student to teach in my stead.