Story and art by Dean Adams Curtis
copyright 2008

By undercutting, they detached the block featuring the ancient painting from a pedestal of earth below it.

Then, Daniel took out a centimeter ruler and unfolded it on the ground before the block with the painting and took pictures.

Maria picked one of the images Daniel texted her and paired it with GPS coordinates in her log of objects found in the dig.

This is the most significant one by far.

Daniel put in a call to the regional archaeology institute and reached its museum director, a colleague who had funded their dig until money ran out and the summer's student internships ended. The woman said she would dispatch a truck to the site immediately to remove the ancient painting to her institute's safely before the site was submerged. Maria had set to work during Daniel's call, readying to lift the block that had the painting on its surface. She set up the tripod steel tubes that looked like giant soda straws with squashed tops. Daniel didn't pay attention as she lifted the ladder from the site, balanced two tubes atop it, then the third, then climbed the ladder and bolted the three together. Her husband joined her as she climbed down from the ladder.

"Why not just use the Jacko?" Daniel asked, referring to their small Turkish tractor with the hydraulic hoist. She was flushed by anger for a moment, having just engaged in effort that would lift the block in the method she had traditionally used, as she had been taught. But Daniel had arranged for the little red beast that had been sitting idle beside their trailer until now. Maria took a breath as she looked at the Jacko, as Daniel had gestured she should. "Maybe that would be better," she replied.

So, they left her tripod in the position it was in beside their excavated rectangle and Daniel moved the Jacko over beside it, but not too close. Then the couple began their preparation for lifting the block with the painting.

First, they carefully covered the image with a plastic sheet they wrapped around the block, then covered that with aluminum foil. Further, the two hastily constructed packaging between three-inch-thick polyurethane foam sheets to cushion it, wrapped what they had assembled in a yellow tarp to hold the protective layers in position, and then tied it.

Maria recalled with a chill what had happened while they were hoisting it.

Into Eden on