Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)
TITLE: My Ship of the Desert
By Mary Lou Cook
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My colleagues and I are professors of archaeology; each of us brought a team of our star pupils. My name is John Moore; I’m head of the college archaeology department and in charge of the dig. Our camp is located several miles northeast of Dalanzadgad, Mongolia on the southern edge of Gobi Lake Valley. It’s a desolate land with rolling landscape dotted with lakes, small depressions, and saltpans. With the short summers and the violent dust storms, the elements cause stress for the team and I. Close to the camp are the ruins of the Mongol Empire dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. My colleagues and I hope to prove these are the remains of a lake port that once sat on a large body of water. With this proof it will open the possibilities this was a part of the Silk Road. As the weeks pass it’s the usual find of broken pottery and a few trinkets of worthless jewelry.
Outside the ger I hear Zorig’s voice, “No-kho rio.”
A ger, outside of Mongolia, is called a yurt. It always faces south, when entering one if you are a guest you go the west side, if you are family you go to the east side. When arriving at a ger you don’t knock, you say, ‘Ko-kho-rio’ translated it means, ‘hold your dog.’ Zorig is happy and appreciative I learned some of the Mongolians’ customs.
“Come on in,” I said, thinking to myself Indiana Jones gets a glamorous woman for his side kick, I get desert worn Zorig for mine.
He enters and goes to the east side to sit on my cot. He hands me a cup of arkhi, a liqueur of fermented mare’s milk. Zorig holds up his cup, I click my cup against his. He says, “Cheers, my brother.” I repeat, “Cheers, my brother.” This has become our evening ritual, to share a cup of arkhi.
I crawl out of my warm sleeping bag into an ice cold morning. I dress quickly and head for the dig site.
Behind me I hear Zorig yell, “Boshi!”
I turn to see him trying to catch up with me. He hands me a cup of coffee, the hot steam rises into the cold air.
“Boshi, Professor Grant and his team have moved their dig site farther to the west.” Zorig says. He always gives me a morning report, another ritual he and I share.
“Thank you Zorig” I said, studying the horizon for any sign of high winds. Another day stuck in our gers will put the dig further behind schedule.
My team is located in the center of the dig site, Professor Harms and his team are located a short distance to the east. On the western horizon are Professor Grant and his team. My team of students briefly acknowledges my presence and goes back to their work.
An hour into the dig and the temperature is climbing steadily. From the west come loud voices, I look up to see Professor Grant waving his arms. Professor Harms, the students, and I hurry toward Professor Grant and his team. Across the desert I see Zorig running in the same direction. We arrive to see Professor Grant and his team digging around a small piece of petrified wood protruding out of the sand.
My colleagues, the students, Zorig, and I start to dig in anticipation of what we will find. Every inch we uncover builds our enthusiasm; the wooden structure is becoming more recognizable. Before our eyes it slowly takes the shape of a large ancient scow. It will take days to uncover the whole boat and make our find known to the archaeology world.
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