The Story of Bones

The archaeologist’s daughter grew up in tombs. She spent her early childhood crawling through the volcanic ash, which preserved time. Her father dug tunnels in the ground, uncovered death masks, stumbled upon bones of winged beasts, while her baby hands clutched the cold earth. The archaeologist supplied his daughter with a trowel and instructed her to dig. Together they set out to uncover all that lay underneath. She was well accustomed to palaces, with their fallen throne rooms, the shards of pottery and frescoes lying in thousands of pieces, the lost gaze of court ladies re-emerging from the fine dust of centuries. She knew the glint of gold teeth poking out after days of discovering nothing but earthworms and the eyes of insects. Her father often buried treasures in her path, artefacts he had already delighted in. She would dig up a bronze spoon that he had just dusted off and buried again. In her eagerness she would run to her father, curling the bones of her hand over a spoon, which had not been held for hundreds of centuries. At night, they would sit under the stars, telling tales about the lives of kings and emperors, queens and courtiers, fools and devils, women and slaves, peasants and lords. It is the archaeologist’s job to read bones; to find details in decay, to know what food this jaw ground, to know whose lips this hollow mouth kissed, to know the height of this body from a single remaining femur, to know how long this man lived from the look of his empty eye sockets. Here, on this island, under the midnight sky, the archaeologist and his daughter sit under the canopy of a tent they have erected next to the hole in the ground where a donkey fell through the earth and revealed a city full of stories.