Venus Temple

Jake squinted at the inscription on the crown of the pillar. It wasn’t any language he recognized, not even the very local language in this region of Taland. They were working in an area north-northwest of Alosal, one of the bigger cities on the planet. The discovery of the site of a previously unknown ancient city had led the Taland governing families to hire Jake and his xenoarchaeology company to excavate.

Now Jake held his brush over the inscription and felt his heart rate increase. The writing bore a strong resemblance to a language that was ancient on Old Earth. He peered at the inscription once again and carefully, lightly, swept his brush over the letters. That really did look a lot like Ancient Greek.

He took a step back, shaking his head. “Not possible. Just not possible. Probably just a coincidence,” he muttered. Jake turned to look over his shoulder.

“Hey, Markus! Can you come over here for a minute?” he called to the tall dark-skinned man carefully cleaning another column.

“One second, boss,” Markus answered. He made one last sweep of his brush across the column base, laid his brush down next to it and straightened up. He strode over to Jake and glanced at the spot Jake was working on.

“Whatcha got?” he drawled.

“First impression – what do you see there?” Jake pointed to the inscription.

Markus leaned back to peer at the worn carving. Jake heard the sudden intake of breath. “Damn. That looks a lot like Ancient Greek… from Old Earth. Very old Earth,” Markus murmured.

“That’s what I thought too,” Jake told him. “But that’s just not possible, right?”

Markus straightened up and looked Jake in the eye. “Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s not to throw the word ‘impossible’ around too often.”

Jake sighed. “You’re right. But this…” he broke off, staring at the inscription. “Any chance you read Ancient Greek?”

Markus snorted. “No. Not more than recognizing the names of some, emphasis on some, of the names of the Greek pantheon. Besides, that’s not really Ancient Greek, I don’t think. I think it’s based on Ancient Greek or some similar alphabet, but it’s just off, as far as I can tell.”

Jake stood up and gazed around the area they were working in . The temple was at one end of the site. The small city sprawled out in the not-quite jungle, below them. The rest of his team were scattered around, working on various sections. He made a quick executive decision and, putting his fingers in his mouth, let out a sharp whistle. A dozen heads turned to look up at him.

He waved his arms. “Everybody! Up here! Bring your tools!” he called out. Jake could feel the puzzlement, but his crew was good. They knew he wouldn’t call them off their areas if he didn’t have a good reason for it. Five minutes later, everybody was gathered around Jake and Markus.

“Okay. I’ve found something… odd. Disturbing, really,” Jake started. “I want to clear out the rest of this temple before we get deep into anything else. As you move into the temple, look at the inscription on the pillar here, and tell me what your first thoughts are. If you think you can read it, I need to know now.” He waved his hand at the column and then in the general direction of the temple interior.

As the small crew moved past him, he could hear the gasps. He exchanged a glance with Markus. They weren’t imagining things, it appeared. Finally, one of the newer members of his team, a small woman with dark hair and an olive complexion, stopped and looked at him.

“Jake, if that were fully Ancient Greek, it would state that this temple is dedicated to Aphrodite, or Venus. The grammar and some of the words are weird, and the name used is some sort of weird mash-up of the Greek and Roman names for the goddess of love, beauty, passion, all that. Including procreation. But I think that’s a good rough translation,” she said.

“Okay. That’s good to know. Thanks, Melanie,” Jake said. Melanie nodded and continued into the temple.

Jake and Markus were the only ones left outside the temple. Jake heaved a sigh. “Okay, let’s go in and see what we can find in a temple on a planet a few light years away from Old Earth, but bearing an inscription in one of its ancient languages. Or sort of one of its languages,” he said.

“Ya gotta admit,” Markus laughed. “Xenoarchaeology is never boring!”


Leigh Kimmel challenged me this week with two versions of the song “Venus.” After reading the lyrics and thinking about it, I went back to Jake and Serena’s xenoarchaeology contract company. This snippet follows on or is attached to the two previous snippets here and here. Interested in what others are doing with their prompt challenges? Mosey on over to More Odds Than Ends and check out this weeks challenge responses!

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