The sand blew in, in piles, through open doors and filled every cavity of every room. Stationed here with the archaeological team, I had tried to stare down those miles of dunes more than once. My little brush and shaker screen weren’t cut out for this job.
It was hard for even us to fathom how this village came to be so immersed within the surface of the Earth, but perhaps the surface had been different back then. To amuse ourselves and pass the hours, we discussed the possibilities, each of us with our own wild theories drawing on what we had been told about why the Earth had been abandoned. No one really knew anymore.
The remains of this place were discovered after September’s heavy winds. An aerial was spotted by a passing patrol, poking out from the side of a dune like a drowning swimmer beckoning us to rescue it. Before that, no one would have thought there was anything underneath this expansive desert. We had flown over it so many times, and no one remembered it ever being anything else but the ‘Great Desert’.
After we had dug for only a few weeks, we could see that this was something special. Those in the business likened it to Pompeii, a fabled city, also on Earth, that had been decimated millennia ago and left as a snapshot of another time.
As the weeks and months drew on, we uncovered what we could, but the sand became our enemy number one. A proposal was taken to the consortium who agreed that we needed a more ‘assertive’ approach and new equipment was brought in. Conservatively, we could now suck out up to one square kilometre of sand per day. And as we did, the extent of our village became clearer – perhaps a city by 21st century standards. More than that, the ground penetrating sonar was telling us that we were, quite literally, only just touching the surface.
As the sand was removed, we moved down with it, below the village’s skyline, until 20 story buildings towered above us. We discovered more, smaller buildings in the spaces in between the towers, and everywhere, we found people. People at work, drinking, walking, eating, talking. A combination of the sand, and the 21st century’s love affair with plastic, steel and other non-compostables had preserved much of the buildings and the interiors leaving a lot for us to study and learn from. All of the citizens were frozen exactly where they had been when the disaster that had wiped them out, had hit.
That part was still a mystery for another two years, until the dig was almost complete. One otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, inside a large and palatial domed white building, one of my colleagues found a large man with his small hand on a very large red button, and a very surprised look on his almost preserved face. And so the mystery began to unravel.
Photo credit: Jean Wimmerlin - Source: Unsplash
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