Archaeology & Dragon’s Gift

In addition to being a writer, I’m also an archaeologist. As a kid, I loved history, boats, Indiana Jones, and Laura Croft. This led me to a career in archaeology, and when I started writing novels, it was only a matter of time before I applied my love of archaeology and history to my stories.

Thus, Dragon’s Gift was born. However, I knew I had a careful line to tread when writing these books. As I’m sure you know, archaeology isn’t quite like Indiana Jones (for which I’m both grateful and bitterly disappointed). Sure, it’s exciting and full of travel. However, booby-traps are not as common as I expected. Total number of booby-traps I have encountered in my career: zero. Still hoping, though.

When I talk about treading a line with these books, I mean the line between archaeology and treasure hunting. There is a big difference between these two activities. As much as I value artifacts, they are not treasure. Not even the gold artifacts. They are pieces of our history that contain valuable information, and as such, they belong to all of us. Every artifact that is excavated should be properly conserved and stored in a museum so that everyone can have access to our history. No one single person can own history, and I believe very strongly that individuals should not own artifacts. Treasure hunting is the pursuit of artifacts for personal gain, and frequently invovles the destruction of archaeological sites and the loss of valuable information.

So why did I make Cass Cleraux (of Ancient Magic) a treasure hunter? I’d have loved to call her an archaeologist, but nothing about Cass’s work is like archaeology. Archaeology is a very laborious, painstaking process—and it certainly doesn’t involve selling artifacts. That wouldn’t work for the fast paced, adventurous series that I had planned for Dragon’s Gift. Not to mention the fact that dragons are famous for coveting treasure. Considering where Cass got her skills, it just made sense to call her a treasure hunter or a magic hunter. Even though I write urban fantasy, I strive for accuracy. Cass doesn’t engage in archaeological practices—therefore, I cannot call her an archaeologist. I also have a duty as an archaeologist to properly represent my field and our goals—namely, to protect and share history. Treasure hunting doesn’t do this. At the end of the day, it’s just stealing. One of the biggest battles that archaeology faces today is protecting cultural heritage from thieves. 

I debated long and hard about not only what to call Cass, but also about how she would do her job. I wanted it to involve all the cool things that come to mind when we think about archaeology—namely, the Indiana Jones stuff, whether it’s real or not. But I didn’t know quite how to do that while still staying within the bounds of my own ethics. I can cut myself and other writers some slack because this is fiction, but not that much slack.

When I was developing this series, I consulted some of my archaeology colleagues to get their take, which was immensely helpful. Wayne Lusardi, the State Maritime Archaeologist for Michigan, and Douglas Inglis and Veronica Morris, both archaeologists for Interactive Heritage, were immensely helpful with ideas for these books. My biggest problem was figuring out how to have Cass take artifacts from tombs and then sell them and still sleep at night. Everything I’ve just said is pretty counter to this, right?

That’s where the magic comes in. Cass isn’t after the artifacts themselves (she puts them back where she found them, if you recall)—she’s after the magic that the artifacts contain. She’s more of a magic hunter than a treasure hunter. That solved a big part of my problem. At least she was putting the artifacts back. Though that’s not proper archaeology, I could let it pass. At least it’s clear that she believes she shouldn’t keep the artifact or harm the site. But the SuperNerd in me said, “Well, that magic is part of the artifact’s context. It’s important to the artifact and shouldn’t be removed and sold.”

Now that was a problem. I couldn’t escape my SuperNerd self, so I was in a real conundrum. Fortunately, that’s where the immensely intelligent Wayne Lusardi came in. He suggested that the magic could have an expiration date. If the magic wasn’t used before it decayed, it could cause huge problems. Think explosions and tornado spells run amok. It could ruin the entire site, not to mention possibly cause injury and death. That would be very bad.

So now you see why Cass Clereaux didn’t just steal artifacts to sell them. Not only is selling the artifact wrong and unethical, but selling the magic itself is cooler, especially since the magic was going to cause problems for the site in the long run. These aren’t perfect solutions—the perfect solution would be sending in a team of archaeologists to carefully record the site and remove the dangerous magic—but that wouldn’t be a very fun book. Hopefully this was a good compromise that you enjoyed (and that my old professors don’t hang their heads over).

I hope you enjoy the Dragon’s Gift series and will stick with Cass, Nix, and Del on the rest of their adventures!

*Though history plays a role in all of my books, the series that most prominently feature the themes I talk about above are The Huntress, The Seeker, and The Protector series.