I’ve just spent a day with the archaeologist Sabine Beckmann in Gournia, Crete. I've found and held sherds
of pottery that are more than 4000 years old, held a stone tool that a potter probably
used, and stood on the clay floor that she would have sat on to work. The rest of the town is rock, but the potters' work field is clay, from the years of clay spilled as the potters worked. Somehow, that makes it more real than if an entire ornate pot was sitting in the middle of it.
|piece of a Minoan pot, found at Gournia, Crete|
I fell in love with archaeology when I was 12.
Out riding in the Colorado foothills, I spotted
Native American beads in an ant hill. Later I found cowrie shells, which, as we
were about 2100 m (7000 ft) above sea level, and thousands of miles from the
sea, were a mystery until an archaeologist explained that I’d been riding on a
trading route: the cowries had been currency. What a call to adventure – finding
treasure! Or at least links to the past. Maybe I should become an archaeologist
as well as a writer – Rosemary Sutcliff and Mary Renault’s novels, set in Roman
Britain and Bronze Age Greece, had already made me determined to become a
|The outdoor space where the potters worked,|
It’s taken a while, but those dreams have been bubbling away
and germinating in the way that ideas do. I’ve been working on Dragonfly Song,
set in the Aegean Bronze Age, for a few years, and the next book will be set in
the same era and region. And now, I’ve had that concrete link – the reminder
that whether or not there’s any truth in the stories we create for them, real
people made these pots, these tools, these homes. They worked away at them,
were frustrated when they made a mistake, proud when they created something
beautiful. They were just as real and alive as we are now.
|the Minoan town of Gournia, Crete|
|Archaeologist suggesting how offerings might have been arranged in the depressions in this stone|
It’s humbling. And inspiring. My head is buzzing, and the new story is simmering...
Labels: archaeology, creative writing, dragonfly song, historical fiction, inspiration, Mary Renault, researching fiction, Rosemary Sutcliff, story background, writer's life