Over 1,500 years old and still sharp.

The field of archeology is one of mischance, happenstance, and rarity.  The physical evidence that remains preserved through time is as weird and unchartable as weather – patterns may be seen and observed, but no peat bog or silicate desert guarantees artifacts.  Somehow, despite this rarity, we still manage to stumble upon new delights, new preserved wonders, that shape and change the way we think about the past.

One such change was begun by treasure seekers in Germany.  While they were hunting for antiques of recent wars, they discovered things far more ancient – the remains of a battle between tribal Germans and Roman soldiers.  For whatever reason, these artifacts have remained mostly intact for hundreds of years.  In addition, they show a Rome still vibrant enough to field soldiers 200 years after Christ’s death. While the period of 100-200 AD was a good time for Rome when peace extended as well as borders, it has long been thought that Roman activity in Germany was not high.  many Germanic tribes were part of raids against the Romans, but the scale of this pitched battle is unexpected and may lead historians to reevaluate.

I for one am ready to go gallivanting off into the German woods and see if I can’t stumble on an ancient axe or even a Scorpio.

There’s always something.

This is a repeated line from a series of lovely children’s books: A Series of Unfortunate Events.  For those of you who don’t know or haven’t read the books, a part of what makes them lovely is the fact that they most likely aren’t written for children.  A part of the delight that comes from reading them is in the literary quips and unlikely definitions that are liberally spread throughout the text.  The characters are interesting enough, and the plotlines are at least entertaining, but the substance of the books would never happily fill up 13 novels, with out a bit of something more.

True, by the thirteenth book the system of adding quips and delightfully amusing sidenotes has gotten a little redundant, but I still have an attraction to these books.  I want the entire set for myself.  I want to curl up with one of them again on a cold snowy night, or when I’m having trouble falling asleep, or when I’m feeling a little sick or a little worn.  I want to read these books to my children and draw them against their wills into the jokes as my father dragged me through puns and word plays in my childhood.  These are books that Italo Calvino would say are classics.  There’s something there, inside them, no matter how many times they are read.

Perhaps my own personal interest has something to do with the circumstances in which I first encountered them.  I was introduced to the first book in China, by a good friend who happened to know the author.  I ate it up.  Since I was in China, I know I wasn’t going to get to read the second one for at least a year – books being largely unavailable in English if new, and typically quite expensive.  But, to my surprise, one of my English teaching compatriots was being shipped each book by her mother as it came out.   Ah, fresh-off-the-presses books!  Just for me (after my friend had read each one, of course).

But despite the early encounters being weighted in favor of these books, I still believe they are generally enjoyable and of some worth.  Now that I have an Amazon gift card, they just might be shipped to an address near me.