A hitherto lost journal of the indomitable Amelia Peabody has been miraculously recovered: a chronicle from one of the "missing years" -- 1907-1908 -- shedding new light on an already exceptional career, a remarkable family . . . and an unexpected terror.Ousted from their most recent archaeological dig and banned forever from the Valley of the Kings, the Emersons are spending a quiet summer at home in Kent, England, when a mysterious messenger arrives.
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March 29, 2004
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Excerpt from Guardian of the Horizon by Elizabeth Peters
When we left Egypt in the spring of 1907, I felt like a defeated general who has retreated to lick his wounds (if I may be permitted a somewhat inelegant but expressive metaphor). Our archaeological season had experienced the usual ups and downs -- kidnapping, murderous attacks, and the like -- to which I was well accustomed. But that year disasters of an unprecented scope had befallen us.
The worst was the death of our dear old friend Abdullah, who had been foreman of our excavations for many years. He had died as he would have wished, in a glorious gesture of sacrifice, but that was small consolation to those of us who had learned to love him. It was hard to imagine continuing our work without him.
If we continued it. My spouse, Radcliffe Emerson, is without doubt the preeminent Egyptologist of this or any other era. To say that Emerson (who prefers to be addressed by that name) has the most explosive temper of anyone I know might be a slight exaggeration -- but only slight. His passions are most often aroused by incompetent excavators and careless scholarship, and during this past season he had -- I admit -- been sorely provoked.
We had been excavating in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor, my favorite site in all of Egypt. The concession for the Valley was held by an irritating elderly American, Mr. Theodore Davis, who was more interested in finding treasure than in scholarly research; we were there under sufferance, allowed to work only in the lesser, more boring tombs. Still, we were there, and we would be there again in the autumn had it not been for Emerson.
The trouble began when Mr. Davis's crew discovered one of the strangest, most mysterious tombs ever found in the Valley. It was a hodgepodge of miscellaneous funerary equipment, much of it in poor condition, including a mummy and coffin and pieces of a magnificent golden shrine; and if it had been properly investigated, new light would have been shed on a particularly intriguing era of Egyptian history. In vain did we offer Mr. Davis the services of our staff. Abdullah, who was still with us, was the most experienced reis in Egypt, our son Ramses was a skilled linguist and excavator, and his friend David an equally skilled copyist. Not to mention our foster daughter Nefret, to whose excavation experience was added medical training and a thorough acquaintance with mummies. Only an egotistical idiot would have refused. Davis did refuse. He regarded excavation as entertainment, not as a tool in scholarly research, and he was jealous of a better man. He wanted no one to interfere with his toy.