It had been discovered in a field, only some months ago, by a farmer named Enrico who had been plowing the ground in order to expand his carrot crop. He had been doing it manually instead than with a machine because he was testing the new piece of land he had bought. It was something of a lucky decision. If he had used any big machinery, he would have destroyed hundreds or maybe thousands of years of history.
Enrico cleaned the shield with care, only using his hands. The state of the piece was amazing: drawings could still be seen on it, as well as some marking done by the edge. The farmer called the museum in Florence and they came to pick up the piece in a matter of hours. They also decided to ask Enrico if they could check his land for more objects and he agreed. He wasn’t going to use all the new land just yet, so the archaeologists could do whatever they wanted where he had found the shield.
The object was put in a Styrofoam casing and transported to the city, to Florence, where experts would check its state and would determine where it came from, what it was exactly and when it had been used. Every single test available was going to be done to the shield because that’s what they did with every single piece that they recuperated. They would also clean it thoroughly, and put it somewhere in the vast collection of the Museum of Archaeology of Florence.
The testing began at the same time a small team of people arrived at Enrico’s land. It lasted for several days, time in which many other objects were discovered in the dirt: there was a chest protection with the leather strap still attached to it, a golden ring made of gold and a dagger with an amethyst in the middle. They were very well conserved and the people that had unearthed them were really glad they hadn’t been affected by centuries of rain and earthquakes and all other natural phenomenon that affected the region.
In the museum, they determined that the objects came from the times of the Roman Empire. By past data, they knew there was no city where the objects were found, so it had to be a camping site or a battleground of sorts. The objects appeared to be related somehow: the chest protector and the shield were used commonly by soldiers or even gladiators. The dagger also fit in there nicely. But the ring was the one thing that seemed out of place.
No gold mines had ever existed in the region. And even if it had been made in another territory, only rich men and women were able to have such nice things. But not a soldier and that’s what the rest of the objects were suggesting the owner was: a simple soldier, maybe battling an enemy or just camping by a forest. The excavation of the site was ongoing.
After restoration, every single one of the four objects looked as it had just been made. It was amazing. Some thought the dirt of the place they had found them all in was very special and capable of changing without deteriorating any type of material. The leather, for example, was moldy and about to break in some parts. But it was cleaned with care and then it looked almost new. The museum was expecting to find more objects in the area before organizing a special exhibition for the pieces.
Almost six months after Enrico had found the shield, a group of college students that helped in the excavations, found another dagger and two skulls. The rest of the skeletons were discovered in the following days. It was amazing for every single person involved because the place was telling a story and it was telling it slowly, with mystery and even a little bit of drama.
The skeletons were not complete but most of the bones had been recovered. They were reconstructed in separate tables in the museum and the bones were cleaned carefully in order to do a full testing of every single one of them. They also cleaned the second dagger found, this one missing the jewel that should have been right in the middle. It was impossible to know if it had been an amethyst or not. Maybe that was a small secret that the ground would choose not to disclose.
When the skeletons were finally reorganized and tested, it had been determined that both bodies had been man, probably in their late thirties. One of them was missing at least three teeth. The other one had week bone structure in one of his arms. Both, however, had evidence of having being stabbed in the chest, probably causing their deaths. The entry of the daggers had been so violent, they had almost sawed some of the rib bones.
What was strange was the fact that the daggers had been extracted after the first and, probably, only blow. Maybe they had been fighting alone, away from the main conflict and they had just realized they were exactly the same strength, they realized they weren’t going to be able to overcome the other one so they decided to go for the daggers and each had stabbed the other in the same way. Maybe it was a way of dying honorably… It seemed odd anyway.
The skeletons were also introduced in the plan for an exhibition and the city of Florence had decided to go ahead and organized, even if the amount of objects was not as abundant as it would have been desirable. They trusted new discoveries to be made in the time they would take to organize everything. And they did right.
Just before the excavation site turned one year old, a young archeologist name Camilla discovered the remains of two sets of sandals, as well as a leather pouch filled with coins. Inside the pouch, which was not as well conserved as the rest of the objects, was also a key that had a very small inscription in Latin.
The first person to see the key, besides the young woman, was an expert in the museum that was very well versed in the language of Ancient Rome. And he was very amazed to realize what the key said: VOBIS IN PERPETUUM, which means “yours forever”. The key and the coins were, as predicted, of the same time that the bones and the rest of the objects. The story had turned much more interesting. What did that key open and why the inscription?
The excavation went on for another six months but nothing else was discovered in there. It was as if those two men had been alone, very far from any other group of people, maybe sharing the money they had in order to go somewhere else. Many experts investigated old maps and discoveries made all over Tuscany and realized there was an ancient road that passed near the site and served merchant that wanted to take their good from the coast and back. So maybe the two men had been looking for a way to go there, to the coast.
Others thought they were actually going to Florence, or Florentia as the romans called it. Some even dared to say that the two men had no intention of moving anywhere. Maybe they didn’t even know what their next step was. Anyway, none of that gave light about what the inscription in the key meant and why they had stabbed each other to death, presumably.
The museum exhibition took place almost two full years after the first remains had been found. The excavation site was closed but the farmer never used it, deciding to excavate himself from time to time, as a hobby. The exhibition was complemented with other objects of the time, in order to illustrate the era and the way people lived. But at the center of it all, there was a big class casing with the skeletons lying there and even animated versions of how the two men would have looked like.
The key was put in a casing above the bodies. The small object appeared to float over them and the inscription was written all over the walls and the exhibition asked every visitor to give their interpretation of the words. Maybe they would see something the experts had not seen. Maybe new fresh minds would be necessary to resolve a mystery of one thousand years. Or maybe, just maybe, some things deserved to be kept secret forever.