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Ally Sherrick : Digging for Buried Treasure

My favourite subject at school – apart from English – was history, and my favourite topic in history was the Ancient Egyptians. I was fascinated by mummies and how people were turned into them, especially the bit about pulling the dead person’s brain out with a hook through their nose. And I LOVED the story of how the famous archaeologist, Howard Carter, had discovered the tomb of the boy king, Tutankhamun, surrounded by all his most precious possessions.

So when people asked me what job I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d tell them I wanted to be an archaeologist and go hunting for buried treasure. As it turned out, I didn’t end up doing that – at least not in the way you might expect. But after a few detours, I became something equally as good – a writer!

Actually, I think writing is a bit like being an archaeologist. Something catches your eye – a place, an object, a story in a newspaper or on the internet – and you get the itch in your fingers to start digging to find out more about it and see if it might be the beginning of a bright new, shiny story. One that if you’re very lucky, and work really hard to excavate as carefully as you can, could turn out to be made of gold.

A treasure-hunt is at the heart of my new wartime adventure, The Buried Crown. My hero and heroine – London evacuee, George Penny and German Jewish refugee, Kitty Regenbogen – get caught up in a desperate race against time to find and rescue a priceless piece of Anglo-Saxon treasure before a bunch of Nazis can get their hands on it. It was inspired by a real-life event – the discovery, in 1939, of a magnificent ship burial, believed to be the grave of the Anglo-Saxon King Redwald, at a place called Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. Billed as the British equivalent of the Tutankhamun discovery, the ship was full of the king’s possessions – the cups, bowls, spoons and clothes he would need to take with him on his journey to the afterlife. But more important still, were the gorgeous items of treasure and weaponry he was buried with, including a purse studded with jewelled decorations and filled with gold coins, a great golden buckle covered with animal patterns and a magnificent helmet adorned with not one, but three garnet-eyed dragons.

So for my Story Starter, I’d like to invite you to join me on a treasure hunt …

First …

Think of your own item of treasure – it doesn’t have to be worth a lot of money, but it must be very precious to someone. You – or someone else? You decide!

Describe what it looks like. How big is it? What is it made of? How does it feel to touch it? Does it have a smell, or make a noise when you shake it? Or maybe it’s too fragile pick up and you have to handle it in some other way?

Then …

Think about what makes it precious? Is it made of gold or rare jewels? Is it the only one of its kind? Perhaps it has hidden powers? If so, do you know what they are?

Where is it kept? In a glass case in a museum? (The treasures from the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial are on display in the British Museum in London.) In a box under your bed? Perhaps it hasn’t been discovered yet and you need to follow the clues to find out where it is …

Next …

Think about what might be guarding it? A machine? Another human? An animal. Or something more fearsome still? The Anglo-Saxons believed treasure-hoards were guarded by dragons – look out for one of these in The Buried Crown! Or maybe, like the crown in my own story, your piece of treasure is protected by something magical – a charm or a spell?

Finally …

Who might want to steal it? Why do they want to get their hands on it? And most crucially of all, how on earth are you going to stop them?

Keep on digging – you’re on your way to a great adventure!

You can find more information on Sutton Hoo here:

Ally Sherrick is the author of The Buried Crown out now (£6.99). Her first novel Black Powder was the winner of the Historical Association’s Young Quills Award 2017.