Chapter 3


“It looks like a skull,” said the student, leaning back on her heels to let the supervisor see into the trench.

Ludovic Vestas crouched down next to the kneeling girl and gently ran his hand over the mud-stained dome emerging from the carefully levelled soil.

“It does, doesn’t it,” he agreed. Casting his eye to the wall of the trench, he continued, speaking softly as if to himself “there is an ash layer, very thin. There was no sign of capping here was there? No evidence of disease or bulk burial?”

“No nothing like that,” the student asserted, pleased to be asked.

“OK,” said Vestas more loudly, “let’s open the trench up a bit. If it is a skull and the rest of the body is attached, it’s going to be wider than this section.”

The students gathered round with spades and trowels. When time was limited it made more sense to focus on a single interesting find, than to continue with the speculative digging over a wider area. Ludovic looked around, sometimes he would ask one of the Polish machine operators to help with the heavy digging. A gently handled JCB was many times more effective than the most enthusiastic shovelling. But today he could tell that the man dubbed the “fat controller” by the students was on site, all the workers were making themselves look very busy.

As the team scraped and carried away the mud, Vestas stood with his assistant looking over the trenches from a scaffolding platform at the edge of the development.

“Judging by the depth, I’m guessing four hundred, maybe five hundred years,” she was saying. “ We haven’t come across the ash layer from the great fire, but often that doesn’t mean anything. Some of the landowners did a very thorough job in clearing their plot.”

“The location is puzzling though,” interrupted Vestas. “It looks as if there were buildings there at that time.” He looked at the plan she was holding. “We’ve assumed that there was a narrow street here,” he pointed with a grimy finger. “There was evidence of paving in both trenches over there. So that area would have been inside a building. It’s definitely not a church.”

He looked up again, imagining the tudor buildings and narrow, sewage-puddled streets.

“Why would someone be buried inside a building?”

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