Motel of the Mysteries

Motel of the Mysteries

This book was a fun and interesting read.

The author tells a story from the future and an amateur archaeologist who happens upon the discovery of a motel.  All of North America was buried under a cataclysmic disbursal of third class advertising mail when the bulk mail rates dropped suddenly in the later part of the twentieth century.  This left many of the cities and living spaces buried under paper and preserved for future exploration and evaluation.

From our current day perspective, the main character fell through a skylight into the hallway of a motel.  He found a room with a do not disturb sign and found inside the room the remains of two people who were staying at the motel at the time of the mail disaster.

It was a regular motel room with a bed, dresser, Television, and a bathroom.  There were fake plants in the hallway and the bathroom had not been used since being cleaned.

Of course, we know it is a motel because we are familiar with our society.  For the archaeologist from the future he claims it is a burial chamber, sealed by the do not disturb sign warning others to not intrude.

Everything in the room gains a mystical and religious meaning with the Television as an object of worship.  The Ice Bucket was for preserving organs.  The fake plants were exotic and everlasting to be carried on into the afterlife.  The formica was also an exotic material made specially for the burial chambers.  The ceiling tile with water stains was fine art for the burial chamber.  The sections about the findings in the bathroom were amusing if a bit juvenile.  Overall, what we would find to be cheap and inexpensive was evidence of finery and opulence in the burial chamber.

The book was written for laughs but also carries a more serious message.

What if some archaeologists are making the same mistakes at some of the more remote and lesser well documented sites?  Sites in Egypt, Rome, and other ancient civilizations that had a written language we can interpret make the explaining of the society easier and the work of archaeology is probably fairly accurate in determining what the different artifacts mean.  In sites and times with no written language, this kind of misinterpretation is probably difficult to avoid.

The book is valuable at pointing out some of the potential mistakes in looking back on societies without the benefit of actually knowing what is going on.  I think the author was trying to avoid problems by making the main character an amateur so as to avoid picking a fight with the professionals but the message comes through loud and clear.

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