[Story] Story a Week 37

[[ Prompt: A story about a scientific discovery.

I don’t know enough about scientific techniques to make this super realistic, but here’s some archaeologists uncovering something unusual… ]]

“Professor Hughes, I think you should come have a look at this.”

Bethany Greer was his masters student in charge of the excavation. While she could be described many ways — brusque, driven, direct — she was rarely uncertain. That is what drew his attention more than anything else. Aside from her extensive book knowledge, she had gained a great deal of experience since joining the anthropology department. Like most devotees of the science, she had been drawn to bones from a very young age, found them fascinating and yearned to discover their secrets.

She was hip-deep in the discolored water of the excavation, neatly excised from the surrounding moor, as if by a cookie cutter. Arranged nearby were folding tables holding tools, notebooks, and packing materials. Several other similar holes stood nearby, some still being catalogued and charted by undergraduates, others slowly filling with water as all of their secrets had been divulged. It was a productive dig already; two weeks ago there had been a hanged man — judging from his broken neck and lack of clothing — and earlier this week a pregnant young woman. They weren’t yet sure what her crime might have been, there had not been time yet to study her fully. It’s possible that she was, like many of the bog bodies, a sacrifice to some ancient god.

Professor Hughes knelt down, hands on his knees. “What is it?”

Bethany stripped off her old pair of gloves and donned a new, cleaner pair. “Here,” she indicated with her tiny trowel. The tanned, gleaming skin of a bog mummy emerged from its bed of peat. It took him a moment to see what was unusual about it. From around the elbow and up, the arm was covered in thick hair. The acidity of the peat, which helps preserve the bodies in their remarkably pristine state, often bleaches hair to an unnatural orange color. It had done so here. Professor Hughes was stumped as well. “Let’s get him out and have a look,” he said. “Maybe he’s just really hairy.”

Bethany looked skeptical. Admittedly, so was he. He’d been studying bog mummies for over three decades and never seen one with much body hair at all. The natural tanning process usually caused it to fall out, or the handling after, no matter how careful one was. The head hair generally stayed in place. The professor was eager to see what this hairy fellow’s face looked like. It took the rest of the day to get the mummy unearthed, a painstaking and exact process that required care and skill not to harm the fragile surfaces.


He laid his book and pen down on the table. Now what? Bethany looked, for the first time Professor Hughes could recall, absolutely perplexed. The bog man’s head appeared to be attached to that of a dog’s. As was the body hair, the hair over the head was an artificial orange, in life it would have most likely been a dark brown. Bethany struggled to explain. “Is this some kind of ritual? Attaching a dog’s head to the body?” She probed around the neck with her tiny trowel. “I can’t see any seam though, we’ll have to look closer back in the lab–”

He’d seen many bog mummies who bore ritual marks; runes carved into the skin, certain items of significance buried along with them. But he’d never heard of anything like this. He’d need to go online later from his tent, praying the signal would be strong enough to at least get some places to start. He vaguely recalled some cases from eastern Europe, but he couldn’t remember all of the details. Something to do with witches, most likely.

Bethany furrowed her brow thoughtfully and began preparing the mummy for transport back to the lab. Hopefully it would shed some light on what they had found.


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