Book Review: Across Ancient Sands by Eric Scott Horn

What are your favorite books and movies about archaeology?

One of my secret wishes growing up was to become an archaeologist and go on adventures around the world searching for ancient treasures. I never realized this particular dream and thus was excited when Eric Scott Horn kindly sent me a copy of his novel Across Ancient Sands. It’s set at an archaeological dig in Algeria, where US-based Jade Asher-Reece and local academic Tariq al-Maqqari preside over a diverse team of students working the site. I would recommend it for anyone who likes a good story and especially for those who are interested in the Bronze Age Mediterranean, archaeology, and/or epic. The novel is free on Amazon Kindle beginning this afternoon (3 p.m. EST) through Dec. 1.

Jade and Tariq unearth an unprecedented discovery: wall carvings and a papyrus scroll that bring together stories from across the Bronze Age Mediterranean. To protect these finds from being exploited by opportunist academics, Jade and Tariq must figure out how to keep the news quiet while also drawing on the expertise of trusted colleagues. Jade contacts a former advisor to translate the epic on the papyrus, which is written in various languages and scripts (Hebrew, Linear B, Phoenician, Cunieform). His translations are shared in verse in alternating chapters with the dig narrative. Via the journey of Sfas, the main character in the epic within the story, readers meet Homeric characters, Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, and more. Horn illustrated the story beautifully, adding emotional impact.

Horn, who has himself participated in digs, describes the physical and emotional highs and lows of archaeological work vividly, the pendulum swings between tedium and exhilaration, whether from danger or discovery. The novel illuminates the dedication and passion of those who spend their lives unearthing (literally) the past, despite many challenges, from the toll the work takes on the body, to the challenges of working in a country where one does not speak the language or know the customs, hoping to make the next great discovery.

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