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TOMB SEVEN

By: Gene Snyder
Charter Books: New York
1985 (pb)

This is the second in a series of “oldies but goodies” archaeology novels, published in 1985 by an author who quickly slipped into anonymity.  Tomb Seven is one of those thrillers that start out like gangbusters, presenting an intriguing plotline, but after a couple of hundred pages (sometimes earlier!), things begin to unravel and then devolve into sheer literary chaos. 

The intriguing plotline first:  An apparently healthy young American archaeologist named George Rodgers is found dead in a shaft below Tomb 7 at the ancient site of Monte Alban just outside of an high on a mountaintop overlooking Oaxaca, Mexico.  There are no signs of the reason for his death, although the look of horror on his face would suggest he died of fright.  Almost simultaneously, Welsh archaeologist Jason Farewey is arriving in New York to attend a conference on “psychic archaeology” at the famed Moreland Research Institute.  While skeptical of such outré approaches to archaeology, he allows himself to reserve judgment after witnessing a demonstration of psychic powers applied to archaeological research by archaeologist Lupe Munoz.  The fact that Lupe is very much a babe might have something to do with Jason’s open-mindedness,  but it’s not long before Jason and Lupe are winging their way to Oaxaca to experimentally apply Lupe’s talent –psychic talent, that is—to the Tomb 7 dig at Monte Alban, which is a Moreland expedition. 

The situation at Monte Alban is beginning to grow grim as they arrive.  Xacha, a very old Zapotec shaman, appears at the Guelaguetza celebration to warn of more disaster to come if Tomb 7 continues to be violated.  Screaming out her dire warnings in the teeth of a vicious, and highly unusual electrical storm, she drops dead for no apparent reason—just like the young American archaeologist, George Rodgers.  Did the “Old Ones,” who have protected Monte Alban long before the coming of the ancient Olmec conquerors according to Xacha, do in both the archaeologist and the old shaman? 

The scene is set for an epochal battle between Jason the skeptical scientist and Lupe the psychic on one hand and the ancient powers that may protect the sanctity of Monte Alban and Tomb 7.  This would not be a bad plot device—not a particularly novel one to be sure, but it could be interesting in the hands of a clever writer. 

Unfortunately the plotline begins to develop fault lines, just as there are fault lines at Monte Alban that lead to several cave-ins at the site.  We are introduced to an irritating group of wealthy and powerful Mexican conspirators who are plotting to steal vast amounts of gold from Tomb 7 and other Mexican archaeological sites.  They identify each other as Seniors “Dos,” “Tres,” “Cinco,” “Ocho,” etc.  While this approach may help the reader practice his Spanish numbers, it’s never very clear why they use such a pedestrian approach to hiding their identities.  Equally irritating is an extended lecture/discussion by Lupe about the theory of “Catastrophism,” as heralded by such great thinkers as Edgar Cayce and Immanuel Velikovsky.  Thrown into the mix is a near-by excavation run by A Russian archaeologist and his KGB handlers (it’s still Cold War days, after all), and an eight-foot humanoid skeleton found deep below Tomb 7 after a cave-in rescue is successfully directed by Lupe and her psychic powers.  The skeleton is spirited out of Mexico to the Moreland Institute for analysis and is found to be over 200,000 years old and has had a root canal drilled by laser surgery and implanting a titanium peg!   

Back at Tomb 7 another cave-in occurs—apparently the work of the “Old Ones,” still intent upon protecting the secrets of Monte Alban from the archaeologists, the Russians, and the secret cabal intent upon stealing the gold.  Lupe psychically discovers another sealed chamber—this one filled with tons of gold and silver artifacts that seem to be prototypes of the ancient wealth and art of all the great civilizations of history.  Is it possible that Egypt and Crete and Mesopotamia – and yes, even Atlantis—can trace their beginnings to the Monte Alban of the “Old Ones?”  Read Tomb 7 and find out.  And if you do, please let me know! 

I’m afraid one trowel is the best I can do.  I think it was the laser root canal that did me in!

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*MVAC Educational Programs are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
*This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.  Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.