Title: Motel of the Mysteries
Author: David Macaulay
Major Themes: Archaeology, Satire
Synopsis: In 4022, Howard Carson stumbled upon an incredible discovery: An untouched tomb from 1985 somewhere in North America!
Some books that are listed in our TruthQuest history guide are there just for fun. Motel of the Mysteries is one of those. This book has been on our shelf for several years, and although I had read the book many years ago, I never got around to reading this one to the children. We’re studying the ancient world right now, which of course includes a fair bit of learning about archaeology. This book is a spoof, poking fun at archaeologists and the conclusions they come to.
Apparently, North American civilization was buried, instantly and completely, in 1985 (you’ll have to read the book to find out how—it’s hilarious!). Nearly three centuries later, Howard Carson fell into a shaft and found himself looking at an untouched tomb from before the catastrophe. He gathered a team and opened the tomb. Inside were “wonderful things!” He found two bodies inside the tomb. One lay on a platform facing the great altar, with a communicator in its hand; the other lay in an exquisite porcelain sarcophagus in an inner room.
We chuckled all the way through this satirical story, as Howard Carson drew his conclusions. You really have to see the pictures to understand the text, as he discovered the “sacred urn” and the “sacred collar and headpiece.” The “sacred point” really made us laugh. All the way through, we were noticing parallels to Howard Carter and the tomb of Tutankhamen, which is why this book is scheduled right now during our study of Egypt.
When reading Motel of the Mysteries, make sure to remember that the intention of this book is to poke fun at archaeologists who make grand assumptions about the artifacts they find without knowing for sure what is going on with them. This book is intended as satire, not reality, and is not to be taken too seriously. Basically, it’s just for fun and to show how artifacts from the past can be misinterpreted very easily!
Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults