|Photo from Popular Archaeology|
Maria scrawled her signature on the form, and handed the clipboard back to the courier. He scurried out of the lab, leaving her and Tom with the coffin.
"Where exactly did Sasha find this?" asked Maria. She ran her hands across the smooth wood.
"There was a stone sarcophagus in a sub-chamber of the main tomb. Total accident they came across it, apparently there was a false wall, or something. Here, she took some photos of the sarcophagus itself.”
Tom handed her a sheaf of photos. Maria flicked through them. Her brow knitted and her lips pursed as she got further through the stack.
“But the sarcophagus is blank. No carvings, no paintings, no nothing.”
“I know. Just like the coffin. So we have no idea who’s in it.” Tom glanced at the coffin. At seven feet long and three feet wide, it was the largest coffin he’d ever seen. He hoped it would fit in the CT scanner.
“We’ll find out soon enough. Can you help me get it into the CT?”
With much huffing, puffing and swearing, Tom and Maria manoeuvred the coffin into the scanner. Maria pressed buttons on the console and the machine began to hum. She was glad the department had found the funds to buy a full scanner. She hated the old ones, scanning only a portion at a time.
“Was there anything in the chamber at all with it?” asked Maria.
“Apart from a staff, no. The walls were completely bare, too. This guy clearly mattered enough to be mummified, but it’s like they were ashamed of him, and didn’t want him going into the afterlife with everyone else.”
Tom pulled on a pair of white cotton gloves and lifted the staff out of a long case on the table. Maria whistled. Normally wood deteriorated over time, even in the largely airless environment of a tomb, but the staff looked like it had only been carved yesterday. A hunk of black rock, the size of an egg and polished to a smooth finish, nestled between the two prongs at the top of the staff.
“What kind of wood is that?” asked Maria.
“No idea. We’re going to submit it for testing. Sasha thought the rock was obsidian but I’m not so sure. It’s the wrong area for obsidian.”
The machine beeped to announce it was ready to go.
“Right, let’s see who we have.” Maria pressed another button and the coffin slid into the scanner. Tom moved closer to see the screen.
“Bloody hell,” he murmured.
The screen displayed a tall figure, male by its size and proportions, and clearly well-built in his day. Maria imagined a seven foot tall Henry Cavill.
“Hang on...do you see anything strange or am I imagining things?” asked Tom. He pointed at the legs.
“His feet...they’re incredibly misshapen. You can hardly tell they’re feet at all. I wonder if it was a birth defect of some kind? Perhaps he was a genetic mutation. That would certainly explain his height...and possibly why he needed the staff,” mused Maria.
“And look here,” said Tom, pointing further up.
“Are those stumps on his shoulders? I’ve seen them at the base of the spine when individuals have had vestigial tails, but never on the shoulders.”
“The tomb was for a prince, so maybe this side chamber was for another member of the royal family, but one they weren’t proud of. Look at his face – the poor guy has a deformed skull along his hairline.” Tom pointed out two jagged stumps about three inches up his forehead from his eye sockets.
“Poor guy. I just wish they’d put his name on the coffin so we can return him to his rightful place in history.”
Tom sneezed, and the staff fell from his hand. It clattered against the floor, and Maria gasped to see sparks between the tiles and the black egg-shaped rock. Tom bent to pick up the staff. The lights dimmed, and the computer screens crackled. Her own machine displayed an unwelcome blue screen. She moved away from the scanner to read the error message but Tom caught her arm.
“Look,” he whispered. He gestured at the screen.
The lips of the figure curved upwards, and sparks glittered in the depths of the sockets. Maria’s mouth dropped open. She looked from the screen to the scanner.
A thump, of a fist against wood, came from inside the coffin.