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CORNWALL, UK – A real-life treasure hunt for a mystical prize of gold and jewels, cast in the shape of a goddess, is about to take place. “The Quest for the Golden Goddess Mia” will be staged across the magical landscape of Cornwall, in Great Britain from April 8-9, 2017.

This event is being held to support the launch of a new book by writer and archeologist, Jacqui Wood. Her book Cliff Dreamers is a pre-historic fantasy novel set 6,000 years ago. It tells the story of a goddess named Mia, who will changes the face of Stone Age Europe. Wood uses her expert knowledge of the history of the time to bring her characters to life, and to set the stage for the four books that will follow in this series.

Jacqui Wood with "Mia" figurine (photo by Dodie Graham McKay)

Jacqui Wood with “Mia” figurine [Photo Credit:Dodie Graham McKay]

Wood has previously written two books on prehistoric cooking, Tasting the Past: British Food from the Stone Age to the Present and Prehistoric Cooking. Both books are informed by her work as an experimental archaeologist and researcher.

She is best known in Britain and across Europe for her numerous television appearances demonstrating ancient cooking techniques. Wood also served as food historian on the much loved and highly acclaimed British archaeology TV series Time Team which was presented by actor and comedian Tony Robinson.

Closer to home, Wood is director of Saveock Water Archaeology. This research centre and field school features its own multi-period excavation site, where students and amateurs can learn how to dig. This facility is located on the land where Wood lives, and was also once the site of an iron-age roundhouse – one that she has meticulously reconstructed.

The name Saveock Water refers to the 17th century hamlet that once stood on the land now occupied by Wood, her work, and her home. This is a relatively modern chapter to the expansive history of this small patch of land in Cornwall, near the city of Truro.

Witch pits dig site at Saveock Water (photo by Dodie Graham McKay)

Witch pits dig site at Saveock Water [Photo Credit: Dodie Graham McKay]

The journey to being published as a fantasy writer began when Cliff Dreamers was written 14 years ago. “I had never written fiction before, but I started Cliff Dreamers on the 25th October and by 11th January I had finished the book of 150,000 words” said Wood in an exclusive interview with The Wild Hunt

“It just flowed from my fingers as I typed and had a life of its own.”

Visitors and students to her dig site became enthralled by the stories, but finding a publisher for her book became the next big hurdle.

“I printed a few copies to give to my archaeology students while they were on my dig for feedback,” Wood explained. “My dig is not exclusive to university students so people of all ages would come for a dig holiday from all over the world. I would give them the book to read.”

“I went down the conventional route of literary agent and publisher, but no one was interested. So I just kept writing them anyway as I sort of felt I had to get the story out.”

It was the enthusiasm of the people who read the stories that led to the first Quest, which was held in October 2007. At the time, she had hoped that this event would create enough media and public interest to attract publishers. The fans were so committed that they donated the gold, diamonds, and precious stones that were used to make the goddess figurine that is Mia.

Wood, who was recently divorced, contributed her wedding ring and diamonds from her engagement ring to the cause.

“We did not know what sort of figurine to make,” Wood remembers. “Then I had a dream at the time, of what she would look like, and sent a drawing of it to my brother-in-law, Kif Wood a brilliant craftsman and guitar maker, to make it.”

The Mia figurine, made of gold and encrusted with diamonds and gems was valued at £10,000 in 2007. Despite the value of the treasure and hard work of the organizers, there was little to no media attention, and the adventure did not attract as many participants as she had hoped.

In the end, the prize was won, and the golden goddess Mia went home with the lucky winners, who were local to the area. At the time they stated that they were merely guardians of the goddess, and that they could not truly own her.

And then, one day when Wood was doing a public presentation, she saw the winners again.

“Five years later I was giving a talk on my dig and two of the winners came up to me and said I should have her back for another quest, as she needed a new adventure, and the book was still not published,” explained Wood.

And so, the golden figurine of Mia, came back to Wood, and has been waiting with the upcoming quest. While Mia has been waiting, other donations have come in, and Mia has some new jewels.

“Years after the quest I had a Der Spiegel reporter on my dig and she read the book. A few weeks after she went back to Germany I got a parcel with a pair of beautiful diamond and gold earrings as her donation to the next quest, so she has two more diamonds on her skirt now.” said Wood.

Reconstructed roundhouse at Saveock Water (photo by DOdie Graham McKay)

Reconstructed roundhouse at Saveock Water [Photo Credit: Dodie Graham McKay]

Mia has even inspired a promotional short film, created, and donated by friends of Wood’s as a way to help get the word out. Shot on location at Saveock Water, the film features the roundhouse and the image of Mia herself.

Details on how to participate can be found on the Quest For the Golden Goddess Mia Facebook page. Participation is limited to 24 teams, and you must sign up in advance. There is no fee for the quest, and registration is on a first come, first served basis.

The Mia quest will begin at the world-renowned Eden Project on April 8, and participants will need to solve clues and follow them out and across the Cornish countryside. Day One will consist of five clues, ending at 6:00 pm. Participants will have the evening to rest and plan for the next day and the final three clues.

The first team back to the Eden Project on Sunday afternoon will be presented with the golden figurine of Mia in a closing ceremony at 4:30 pm that day.

Wood has big dreams for the money that could be earned from her books. The archaeological site on her property in Cornwall is abundant with layer upon layer of rich history and artifacts. The funding to excavate the site is based on whatever she can raise herself, often through the offering of workshops, presentations, and her field school. The proceeds from the sale of her books will also go toward further digging of the site.

The Pagan history of the place is compelling. It was here that Wood first uncovered the international headline-grabbing “Witch Pits.” These exciting series of finds began appearing in 2003 and revealed a tradition of Witchcraft-related ritual activity that dates back at least 350 years. Contained in these pits are animal bones, feathers, eggs, and hides, along with human hair, quartz crystals and, in one case, a piece of broken cauldron. They are believed to be fertility charms in some cases, and curses in others.

The most recent pit was dated to the 1970’s, and it is reasonable to believe that whoever buried the pit could still be alive, or at least a relative of that person could be in the area, and have a memory of what the pits meant.

Parts of the site that have been uncovered so far appear to be some kind of ancient Pagan temple or ritual site, complete with a crystal hearth or altar and a series of ritual bathing pools. But the large size of the site makes it expensive, time-consuming, and labour intensive to excavate.

4_Cliff Dreamers

“If the story of the heart in this quest spreads, the book will sell, and I will be in a position to fund my excavation on my Stone Age ritual dig and make its energy available again as it was 6,000 years ago” says Wood hopefully.

“The publishing deal I have for Cliff Dreamers is just for that book, so I hope if it takes off like it should, I will easily find a publisher for the next four I have finished already.”

Cliff Dreamers is being published by Austin Macauley Publishers and will be released on March 31.