The Yeseni are almost a complete cypher; aside from a few polychrome ceramic vessels and bone utensils that could easily have belonged to a neighboring tribe, there are few physical markers of their existence. What sets the Yeseni apart from their surviving neighbors is a single tomb.
The tomb was discovered after archaeologists drained a reservoir to examine what appeared to be submerged village. Along with the hut bases that had been visible from above-surface, there was a platform a distance away from the village. The platform was 2 meters in circumference and carved with a shallow sun-relief. Post holes indicated the area had once been fenced in. The ornamental nature of the platform, and its isolation from the village, led to speculation that it was of ceremonial importance.
Upon excavation of the platform, the crew found that a well extended beneath it. Crude depth markers set the well’s shaft length in excess of 30 meters. When a pump continued removing water past the capacity estimated for the space, the well was deemed part of a subterranean river and the pump was switched off. When the well failed to refill, an aide was lowered into the shaft and found the large interior space that would be dubbed ‘the crypt’: a perfectly circular room 4.5 meters in diameter. The walls held no torch sconces, leading to theories that light was discouraged in the small space. The floor was packed clay mixed with ash.
The floor was divided into sixteen partitions, and nine of them occupied by stone sarcophagi. Sarcophagi, and the complex burial customs that accompanied them, were not previously thought to exist in the area. Each held a sun-relief that mimicked the platform’s carved design. The sarcophagi were almost completely one piece, it was finally deduced that a small section at the end of the stone tube could be removed, providing barely enough space for a small adult to squeeze through. The sarcophagi were impregnable; archaeologists found that opening the end of one could not be done without destroying the integrity of the structure, so they delayed it until proper facilities could be established.
At this point night had fallen on the surface, so the crew regrouped and planned for the next morning’s operation. The floor of the chamber was still under six inches of water; this would necessitate removal so the crew could explore unhindered the next day. They had brought no photographic or videorecording equipment, so it was never fully established whether the murals existed before the second day of exploration.
The discovery of the murals was not without some furor, as the first team to enter the tomb had brought adequate lighting and were resolute that they had not seen the decorations.
The crew took photographs and film of the well’s murals, the first of many of what would become infamously significant. The murals were thought to be entirely non-representative, no figures, plants, or animal life could be discerned from the geometric patterns. The patterns themselves were theorized to be a crude kind of written language.
The cerulean present in the murals they guessed to be a formula similar to Han blue, the red a mercuric sulfide. The violet remained a mystery. It was too color-fast to be a vegetable pigment, and mineral violets had not been synthesized until hundreds of years after the projected age of the tomb. One dig member thought it to be obtained from some now-extinct Murex relative. All pigment conjecture aside, the question of how the murals had remained colorfast for so long remained unanswered, seeing as the walls were not limestone and no substitute fixative could be detected. The sarcophagi were fashioned from flood basalt, the room’s fixtures from a white alabaster not found in the area.
By now the archaeologists had developed a rhythm of work on the tomb. The site could only be worked by a few shifts a day because workers developed pressure headaches, presumably from the tomb’s depth. Three mild incidents of narcosis were reported in the first week. The next discovery was falsely attributed to mild cerebral edema: several crew members of an evening shift claimed the murals were more bright and saturated than their first sighting. At first dismissed, the claim was verified when the photo rushes arrived from the temporary darkroom set up in a nearby town: the murals had indeed become more vivid since the first day of observation. What was more, the phenomena was not confined to the tomb’s walls. A magazine abandoned overnight showed a marked increase in ink saturation; what was more, the photographic subjects had warped in the moist air, appearing to gain sunken hollows in their cheeks and eyes.
The shifts were commuted from three a day to merely one, and this only lasting fifteen minutes. Even so, the observers within the tomb noted visible changes to the murals within their presence. The geometric patterns began to have a derogatory effect on the crew, one ended up being airlifted to the city after collapsing from an epileptic seizure(no epilepsy had been extant in his family history.)
Seventeen days after the dig began, crew reported an auditory hallucination: knocking. They claimed it was not a knuckle-rap as one might hear on a door, it was more like the flat of a hand testing a surface for solidity. The hallucination did not decrease with time and distance from the pit. More and more crew members reported flu-like symptoms, but blood tests showed no increase in white blood cell count or any other typical response to a viral infection. Finally, the dig was halted when the dig foreman suffered a minor cut to his finger and the wound failed to clot. The foreman lost around two pints of blood in an hour. While he was flown back to the city for emergency procedures, a supposed “pump malfunction” caused water to pour back into the tomb. The shaft was flooded to 2/3 its original volume, the tomb itself presumed submerged once again.
The local government has since designated the area a national heritage site, replacing the stone platform and barring any further archaeological operations. Many of the original crew retired shortly after the dig.