Mary Ann Evans
Author of the Faye Longchamp Archaeological Mysteries

Resources for the Teacher - Artifacts

Artifacts

 

Meteorology:

1.  The description of the nameless hurricane in Artifacts was based on both book research and first-person observation.  I read Florida’s Hurricane History by Jay Barnes (University of North Carolina Press; ISBN: 0807847488) as preparation for the hurricane scene, but some of Faye’s and Cally’s observations are from real life.  When I was seven years old, Hurricane Camille struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  While the deadliest winds dissipated before they reached my hometown, sixty miles inland, we still experienced hurricane-force winds.  It was quite awe-inspiring, even for a little girl.  A survivor described escaping from a building in which everyone else was killed by floating out of an upstairs window on a mattress.  This was the genesis from which Cally’s dresser-drawer salvation sprang.  Some truly apocalyptic photographs and stories about this great storm can be found at this site:

http://www.geocities.com/hurricanene/hurricanecamille.htm

 

2.  There really was a Last Isle hurricane in 1856, and hundreds of people staying at a resort there really did die.  It suited my story to move the hurricane to Florida (playing God is one of the great benefits of being a novelist) but the story as Cally tells it is similar to stories told by survivors of the actual hurricane.  It is said that the wealthy planters staying there danced until the water flowed in a sheet across the ballroom floor.  This hurricane isn’t documented as extensively as more recent storms, but some information is available at:

http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=816

 

3.  Hurricanes have been in the American limelight since the record-breaking season of 2004 brought four hurricanes ashore in Florida.  The shortcomings of our science were highlighted every time a hurricane took an unexpected turn or abruptly changed its speed, which is humbling, because people’s lives depend on that science.  In the opening of Chapter 26 (pp. 255-256), I use true stories of the inaccuracy of our forecasts to explain how it is possible in this day and age for Faye and her friends to be in the path of a deadly storm without knowing it.  For these stories and for the legend of the Mayan storm god Hurukan (page 168), I am indebted to Florida’s Hurricane History, referenced above.

 

 

Ecology and Geography:

1.  When I chose to place Faye’s home on a Gulf island, I knew that I would be dealing with an important issue:  water.  Could I safely assume she and her farming ancestors would have access to fresh water?  While researching the real islands near Faye’s fictional ones, I found St. Vincent’s Island, which is home to freshwater lakes and streams, as well as exotic species like sambar deer and elk, which were introduced when the island was a private hunting and fishing reserve.  More recently, red wolves have been bred there as part of an effort to reintroduce the species in the southeast.

For more information on St. Vincent’s Island, see this site:  http://www.baynavigator.com/stvincentisland/

 

2.  Before I began describing the Last Isles, I needed to learn more about barrier islands.  How do they form?  How do hurricanes affect them?  What plants and animals live there?  I reviewed a variety of sources to get this information, and a very good one for students is located at http://science.howstuffworks.com/barrier-island1.htm .  As an added bonus, some of the example photographs were taken of the Isle Dernier area of Louisiana, which is the site of the resort-destroying hurricane that I used as a model for Cally’s hurricane.

 

3.  Another aspect of islands that I studied while creating Joyeuse was a simple one:  What kind of island could support plantation agriculture?  I knew that a number of plantations were located on sea islands along the Atlantic coast of Georgia and the Carolinas, and I knew that some of them were constructed of a type of cement called “tabby,” so I incorporated that material into the design of Joyeuse. 

Then I read about Kingsley Plantation on the Atlantic coast of Florida.  It was at roughly the same latitude as Joyeuse, but it was larger and closer to shore than the existing barrier islands in the area of the Florida gulf coast where I wanted to site Joyeuse.  So, if you’ll notice the map in the front of Artifacts, you’ll see that Joyeuse Island is close to shore.  Also, you’ll notice that it hangs off the edge of the map, so there can be no argument as to whether it’s big enough to support a large plantation.  It’s as big as you want it to be!

As I did more research on Kingsley Plantation, I found that the slave cabins and some other buildings were built of tabby.  Then I found that the master had married one of his slaves and built her a house of her own, from which she managed the plantation very capably.  The similarities between her story and Cally’s were a bit eerie, considering that I had already written Cally’s tale and it isn’t influenced at all by Anna Kingsley’s life.  Still, on the rare occasion when someone suggests that parts of Artifacts are not realistic, I just think of Anna Kingsley and smile.

Here is the address of a website with photographs from Kingsley Plantation, including close-up photographs of tabby cement:  http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/florida/photos/industry/kingsl/kingsl.htm

 

 

Folklore:

1.  The story of the Wild Man was adapted from an old folktale told in south Mississippi in the 19th and 20th centuries.  I adapted it from a story in Work and Play in Grandpa’s Day by Samuel Thigpen, which is so long out-of-print that Amazon doesn’t even list dealers with used copies.  Since it’s unlikely that you can lay your hands on this primary source, it might be a fun project to read other books of regional American folklore.  I’m guessing there are a lot of similar stories out there about lost children being raised by animals—the tradition goes back to Romulus and Remus, continuing through Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan.  See if you can find any others.

 

 

Geometry

1.  Sam and Krista are using surveying equipment to mark excavation sites in Chapter 1.  Surveying is a practical application of mathematics that has been used since ancient times to mark land boundaries.  Here’s an interesting article on the history of surveying that’s actually part of a surveying company’s commercial website.  (These guys really love their work.)  It even includes a bible verse that shows that the ancient Hebrews were aware of surveying techniques. 

http://surveysinc.com/history/

 

2.  An important part of surveying a group of locations is to establish a benchmark that relates all measurements to each other.  Usually, this benchmark is assigned the coordinates (0,0).  Then, each location that is measured is given a set of coordinates related to the benchmark.  If a tree’s coordinates are (2,3), then it is located two feet north of the benchmark and three feet east.  (Presuming you know that the measurements are in feet, and that the standard “North is always up on a map” conventions have been followed.  In science, it is important to be very clear about such things!)  If another tree is located at (-5, 7), then it is five feet south of the benchmark and seven feet east.

On page 202, Faye uses this coordinate system to show that the killer has altered Krista’s field notebook, which proves that he knew about the mass grave under the live oak tree.

 

3.  On page 200, Faye uses geometry to deduce where Sam and Krista were standing when they were killed.  The sheriff tells her that the shooter was hiding behind the live oak tree.  Faye stands there and she can see the scars where each of the two bullets struck a tree.  The bullets’ trajectories cross in the vicinity of the mass grave, which suggests to her that Sam and Krista were probably standing on top of it, preparing to dig, when the killer stopped them from uncovering his secret.

 

4.  If you are able to borrow surveying equipment, recreating the situations described above would be an interesting way to illustrate a real-life use of mathematics.  Now that GPS equipment is readily available—perhaps even more easily found that a surveyors’ transit—you may be able to adapt this experiment for use with a handheld GPS system.  Delving into the ways that satellites pinpoint exact locations on a spherical planet could be an entire unit on geometry, in and of itself.

 

History:

1.  The journal entries of William Whitehall (pp 15, 50, and 82) are intended to illustrate the language of the late 1700s, yet an English professor told me that there was no grammar book in those days.  Everybody spelled and punctuated as he or she saw fit.  So how was I to check the accuracy of William’s writings?  The professor suggested that I read letters and other documents written in those days, then imitate their style. 

I found a book of old letters (Letters from a Nation, edited by Andrew Carroll; Broadway Books; ISBN:  0-7679-0331-5) that included letters from Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, who each used very different styles of writing.  Benjamin Franklin used a very modern style, similar to our own; while John Adams capitalized many words we wouldn’t and used many archaic spellings.  Realizing that these two founding fathers were contemporaries of my fictional William Whitehall, I went to a document that bears the fingerprints of many of our founding fathers:  the Constitution.  I was surprised to find that it, like Franklin’s letters, was very modern in its spelling and punctuation, except for the frequent use of “chuse” for the word we would spell “choose.”  Alert readers will find that I worked the word “chuse” into William’s journal entries, as a tip of my hat to the framers of our Constitution.

 

2.  Cally’s fictional oral histories (pp. 179, 189, 206, 251, 260, 271, 276, 286) are said to have been collected by the Federal Writers’ Project, which was a federal program intended to provide work for writers during the Depression.  It survives to this day as the National Writing Project, whose goal is improving writing and thinking in our nation’s schools:  http://www.writingproject.org/

The original Federal Writers’ Project really did find and interview former slaves, who were quite elderly by that time.  A simple web search uncovers many websites devoted to these interviews.  I’m referencing one of them here,

( http://newdeal.feri.org/asn/ ) because it includes teaching materials, and it also addresses head-on a particular problem with teaching from these interviews:  The social mores of the 1930s affected the way in which the interviewees were portrayed.  For example, their speech was recorded in a heavy dialect that is frequently offensive to a modern reader. 

For this reason, I took some creative license in writing Cally’s interviews.  While keeping her speech patterns regional and informal, I avoided heavy dialect that would have been demeaning to a character I really liked.  Extreme dialect is also simply difficult to read.  I think, however, if the subject were approached sensitively, a lively classroom discussion might ensue after a class read some of the actual interviews.

3.  The Historic American Buildings Survey, consulted by Magda on pages 173 through 176, was another New Deal project with important historical ramifications.  Photographers were sent out to document old buildings that have since been destroyed.  Some of these buildings were documented in no other way.  The photographs are fascinating historical documents.  The HABS work continues today, in the form of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineer Record (HABS/HAER).  Their website is at ( http://www.cr.nps.gov/habshaer/proj/index.htm ).

A website with some selected images from the HABS collection is located at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/collections/habs_haer/index.html and a very nice collection of images from Louisiana are located at http://habs.lsu.edu/ .  Again, a web search will turn up a plethora of interesting images from your area.

 

Archaeology

1.  Archaeology threads through the entire book.  I used a number of sources in my research, particularly How to Do Archaeology the Right Way (University Press of Florida; ISBN: 0813013925) and Archaeology of Precolumbian Florida by Jerald Milanich (University Press of Florida; ISBN: 0813012732).             

 

2.  Young people love archaeology.  Well, actually a lot of not-so-young people do, too.  Digging up the past is the ultimate treasure hunt.  If you can find a way to observe a real archaeological team in process, try to do it.  If not, I’ve known teachers who devised their own projects, burying things in a sandbox and letting the kids experiment with tools and techniques. 

I have a particular fondness for low-tech, low-cost experiments, so here’s a quick and fun idea.  The concept of stratigraphy, where archaeologists use an artifact’s underground position to determine its age, is a cornerstone of the science.  In general terms, if a given object is found beneath something that can be dated (like a coin that says “1982”), then the deeper object is older, assuming that the soil has been undisturbed since the two items were buried.  Now most people (except those who are obsessively neat) use this concept every day.  The clothes in the bottom of the hamper have been dirty longer than those near the top.  If a letter is beneath a bill dated December 2, 2003 (Let’s hope the bill has been paid!), then the letter was probably received before that date.  Send your students home with instructions to find examples of stratigraphy in their homes, their trash cans, their mothers’ pantries.  There’s no telling what they will find.

 

Plunder

The book is a meditation on the fierceness of maternal love and the independent personality of an amazing teenage girl, as well as the perilous state of the ephemeral land around us...breathtaking ending.

Diana Pinckley - New Orleans Times Picayune

Strangers

Evans's excellent series continues to combine solid mysteries and satisfying historical detail.

Kirkus Reviews

Floodgates

"Evans's fifth series mystery…reveals her skill in handling the details of a crime story enhanced by historical facts and scientific discussions on the physical properties of water. Along with further insights into Faye's personal life, the reader ends up with a thoroughly good mystery."

Library Journal on Floodgates

Findings

in Evans's fine fourth archaeological mystery...the story settles into a comfortable pace that allows the reader to savor the characters.

Publishers Weekly

Effigies

the national association for independent booksellers, has recommended Effigies to their readers as a Book Sense Notable Book

Book Sense

Relics

Evans' second archeological mystery is every bit as good as her debut, Artifacts (2003)....Faye makes a compelling heroine, and she's supported by an interesting array of suspects....Transcripts of Dr. Martinez's interviews scattered throughout the narrative provide important clues for the discerning reader.

Publishers Weekly

Artifacts

Mary Anna Evans tells a good story.

I Love A Mystery

Merry Band of Murderers

...A Merry Band of Murderers is a winner....Three [stories] are particularly noteworthy: Mary Anna Evans' Land of the Flowers, Jeffrey Deaver's The Fan, and Val McDermid's Long Black Veil.... A Merry Band of Murderers is an admirable anthology of short stories by a skilled company of mystery authors.

Mysterious Reviews

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