“So, does it make sense?” asked Trilok, still perplexed. This had been the first fruitful excavation for the forty-something archaeologist.
Prof. Gogoi didn’t seem to hear him. Squatting on damp earth, the hieroglyph expert continued to study the tablet. “Do you have any idea about how old this thing might be?”
“You’re the expert, you tell me.”
The expert doffed his safari hat and beamed at the acknowledgement. “I’m certain this is of Gandolik origin. So, considering the fact that their civilisation was wiped out circa 800 BC...”
“More than 2800 years ago?” The archaeologist felt his heart thud to the tune of a Euro-trash track.
The professor nodded. He pulled out a brush and used it to gently rid the tablet of earth that had filled the grooves in its inscriptions. For an artifact this old, it was incredibly intact. The image of a naked female form squatting at the edge of a cliff, watching a strange-looking bundle fall, and the angry waves of the sea beneath lashing at the base of the cliff became more prominent.
The professor pulled a dusty diary from his pocket and made a note. Then he pushed it back in.
He carefully picked up one of the earthen platters Trilok had briefed him about earlier. Although it now seemed to be a mere shadow of its original form, it bore signs of something having been burnt on it.
Gogoi wore his hat and stood up. “Let’s see this cliff now, shall we?”
The cliff stood a good 150 feet above the sea below. The lashing of waves was constant. Gogoi knew that the Gandoliks deified nature. He pulled out his diary and made another note. He then nudged Trilok back to the main hall where the tablet and the platters lay.
A few silent moments later, Trilok quizzed him, “Well?”
“Let’s see now, earthen platters to burn what seems like incense...a tablet depicting a woman making a sacrifice to the sea god...this place seems to have been an altar.”
Trilok pondered in silence for a few minutes. Then he spoke up, “There’s an inscription I haven’t told you about yet, Professor. It’s on the wall outside the original doorway leading to this chamber. The entrance was covered by a huge boulder that must’ve come crashing down during the frequent seismic activity in those ages.”
“Where is it?”
“I’ll take you there, but just be careful. We’re yet to clear the spot of rocks and other loose rubble that we fear might give way any time.”
Trilok led him to a wall in a corner of the main hall, where a thick tarpaulin sheet hung to prevent stones and rubble from entering the cave. He pulled it aside to let the expert walk through first, and followed him in. The duo crept through a thin crevice in the wall. Having made their way through, they turned around to face the other side of the wall.
Trilok pulled out his torch and ran it over the basalt wall. Inscriptions....
Although worn out, the signs were quite legible. Gogoi grabbed the torch from Trilok to take a better look. It bore Gandolik symbols, as he had expected. The carvings were surely the work of someone who knew his craft well. It didn’t take him much time to decipher the signs.
“Well?” asked an eager Trilok.
“Well mister archaeologist, the image you saw on the tablet inside the hall? That depicted a woman making a sacrifice to the sea god. A very big sacrifice”
“The bundle falling off the cliff? Seems to be a newborn. A firstborn child, perhaps.”
Trilok’s heart beat faster now. “God...so what you’re saying is...”
The professor’s tone turned morbid now. “Not just me, my friend, this tablet here says it too.” He dug his hands into his pockets. “Trilok...what you have uncovered here is an ancient sacrificial altar!”
FLASHBACK – CIRCA 950 BC
Ranghosa peered down the cliff. The waves kept lashing at its base. There was no way anything that had fallen down would pile up and rot. The platters to burn incense leaves would take care of remnant odours. The carvings on the tablet inside the cave were better than he had anticipated. Everything was perfect. The master sculptor beamed as he visualised the village chieftain showering praises on him for a job well done.
Only one aspect remained.
He walked towards the entrance of the cave to check on his pupil.
“Are you finished Tabri?” he asked his young apprentice. The boy had done a wonderful job so far.
“Yes master. Exactly as you had instructed. Take a look.”
Ranghosa picked up a flaming torch and inspected the wall. He couldn't help but notice the beauty of the inscriptions. Each symbol was properly aligned and the dimensions were consistent. Tabri was as good as the villagers had said he was. The inscriptions reflected the markings of someone who knew his craft quite well. The effort showed. He began to bless his pupil, even before he could finish his inspection.
Tabri saw that the master was pleased. He began dreaming about more jobs, recommendations, an audience with the King, gold coins, land, a mansion....
But suddenly, a loud shriek from his master yanked him out of his dream.
Ranghosa’s hands were on his head, his eyes were red with rage and his teeth were clenched. He yelled out in horror, “Holy Goddess of the Berry Shrub! Young man, is that how you spell TOILET???”
P.S. – Just a thought. Can anyone vouch for all the history that has been passed on to us being 100% accurate?