A few years ago I was sitting on a panel of writers at a Malice Domestic Mystery Convention when a member of the audience asked this question: If your protagonist could go to any time and place, where would he/she go? I knew my answer immediately: She would go to Alexandria, Egypt, to the night before the fire that allegedly destroyed the Great Library, and spend the night stealing everything she could get her hands on.
That thought stuck with me and eventually I knew I had to write about it.
The Alexandria Library (see my Post, April 27, 2017) attempted to gather, in one place, all the knowledge of mankind as of that time, a few centuries BC. (before Cleopatra) All knowledge included science, philosophy, geography, mathematics, poetry, and drama. Everything but a card catalog.
Therefore, we have no knowledge of what was lost in any of perhaps three fires the library suffered over time. But it is certain that the earliest records of civilization, the thoughts of the first scientists and mathematicians, the earliest maps, were there and that we do not have them now.
What if someone did steal and hide precious documents as the building burned? The documents, probably on papyrus rolls, would have long since disintegrated, wouldn’t they? But what if the thief had access to a water-proof, insect-proof, air-tight, container that would be virtually unaffected by time and weather?
What about gold? Gold is virtually inert, chemically. Gold items found on the seafloor or in ancient tombs, are still as bright and shiny as the day they were lost, even after thousands of years. What if our ancient thief had a solid gold box and sealed it with gold solder?
Cleopatra the ninth (Julius Caesar’s lover) might have had such a box–for jewelry or whatever.
What if that box, for perfectly logical reasons, was buried on or near the Tropic of Cancer? This line runs through Egypt near the town of Syene, now called Aswan. The desert sands around ancient Syene are now under the waters of Lake Nasser created when the Aswan High Dam was built in the 1960s.
Enter Inola Raven. American archaeologist, recent college graduate, and a Cherokee woman whose goal is to bring her people’s past to light–until she is side-tracked by a rare opportunity to try out her new skills in the Egyptian sands. To picture Inola, imagine a cross between Indiana Jones and Sacagawea.