Somerville had complete confidence in both and knew that they could be safely left to organize the groups and set the people on to work; there would in any case be little change from previous days in the distribution of the labor and the areas of excavation: Most of the people would be employed at different levels of the pit, which in three seasons of excavation they had dug down to a depth of sixty feet; others would be extending the lateral trenches in the hope of finding some remains of connecting walls. Walls were of utmost importance, even if no more than a few inches of them were left. They could lead to rooms, to gates and portals, to temples and palaces. So far, however, they had found nothing but the foundation lines of humbler and more recent habitations, Roman and Byzantine, not greatly interesting.
He was about to start making his way back to the expedition house when his assistant, Palmer, arrived, a sturdy figure in his white cotton suit and soft-brimmed white hat.
"I thought I'd come and see the work started," he said. "I didn't know you were here. Lovely morning, isn't it?"
Somerville assented to this but without much conviction. He liked Palmer and knew he was lucky to have an assistant who, in addition to knowing something of field archaeology, was an acknowledged expert on Assyrian and Sumerian inscriptions. But there were occasions when he wished--irrationally--that Palmer's looks might sometimes betray some faltering, even some hint of dismay, something to correspond to the extremely disappointing nature of their excavation so far. But no, he was always equable, his eyes gentle and shrewd behind the glasses, ready for the momentous discovery just around the corner. Of course Palmer was young, only twenty-seven, eight years younger than himself. And it wasn't Palmer's money that was draining away...
Excerpted from Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth Copyright © 2009 by Barry Unsworth. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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