Indiana Jones. Professor. Adventurer. Archaeologist… or Raider?
With his iconic fedora, brown leather jacket and bullwhip, this rugged explorer has been sparking increases in enrollment for Archeology departments across the country since his cinematic debut in 1981. Created from the first collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Indiana Jones has not only become one of the most entertaining film franchises of all time, but helped redefine the entire adventure genre. Indy’s wild success has also created a huge misconception about what true archeology is — as this Anthropology major discovered during her college years as she excavated on a dig while listening to the Indiana Jones theme music anthem.
Indy was inspired not by noted archeologists at prestigious institutions, but by the whip–cracking adventurers featured in the pulp magazines and the 1930s and 40s adventure movie serials that Lucas and Spielberg enjoyed as children. Those stories were in turn inspired by real–life explorer Roy Chapman Andrews. Let’s take a few moments to sort out the myths from the reality of exactly what constitutes authentic “archeology” by correcting the misconceptions created in the Indiana Jones movies.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Let’s start with the adventurer's outfit. While fedora hats may be popular among some archaeologists and professors, Indy’s costume was directly inspired by Charlton Heston's Harry Steele in Secret of the Incas (1954). Another thing to note is that while some archeological research happens on site in South American jungles or Egyptian tombs, the majority of the “digging” is conducted in libraries and labs. Even when on site, archaeological excavations are a painstakingly detailed process that involves cataloging and mapping objects and locations to answer questions about the culture of people who lived long before us. Archeology is about uncovering a people’s unknown narrative — not going on a treasure hunt. It is very unlikely you will ever see any archaeologist storm into a temple to grab an artifact as Indy does at the beginning of Raiders in the iconic boulder scene.
Temple of Doom (1984)
Set in 1935, making it a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, this film opens in Shanghai at the Obi–Wan night club with Dr. Jones bargaining with a Chinese gangster to obtain an ancient diamond. The difference here between Hollywood’s famous relic hunter and a real archaeologist is that archaeologists are looking for knowledge more than treasure, and they aren’t pirates or grave robbers looking for valuable objects that can be sold to museums or to black market antiquities dealers. The objects archaeologists prize aren’t shiny and “valuable.” They are stone tools, ceramic fragments or bones — all of which provide information about a people’s history and culture.
The Last Crusade (1989)
All of the previous movies show European or American men (Indy and Belloq) as the main agents of archaeological research, which can lead audiences to believe it is a male–dominated field. Indy also usually works alone or in this case with his father, and when he does have a team they are only there as diggers and provide little more value. They even run away fearful of the legends told about the dig site, as in the first Raiders film. Real archaeological research is conducted by teams with members (both male and female) of myriad ethnicities, with various skills and areas of expertise. Each person brings a different understanding to the table and all work hand in glove to piece the past together to tell a little–known people’s story.
In The Last Crusade a woman is finally introduced as an archaeologist, the Austrian Dr. Elsa Schneider. And while she does spend time in a library, it’s to smash into the catacombs with Indy, rather than to do any actual reading. Serving primarily as a femme fatale love interest for both Dr. Joneses (turning out to be a greedy villain), she does little to advance the future of women in the field.
The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
The team is currently back to the drawing board working on the newest Indiana Jones movie, which will be a reboot for the entire series. The current buzz on the wire is that the fedora may be passing hands from Harrison Ford to Chris Pratt. Deviant Rahzzah has given us a little taste of what the newest Dr. Jones could look like. What do you think?
Dr. Jones may not have been a real archaeologist, but his films have certainly inspired many audience members to learn more about the field and a few brave souls to actually pursue it. The impact these movies have had across both education and entertainment make Indiana Jones a hero to fans, moviegoers, and yes, even professors of archeology.
Now, cue the Raiders March. Grab your fedora and dive into the jungles of our DeviantArtists’ imaginations to raid a treasure trove of Indiana Jones fan art.
He no nuts, he’s crazy!”
Dr. Jones. Again we see that there is nothing you can possess that I cannot take away.”
Yeah? I’ll tell you what. Until I get back my five thousand dollars, you’re gonna get more than you bargained for. I’m your goddamn partner!”
Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”
Don’t call me Junior!”
Germany has declared war on the Jones boys”
We named the dog ‘Indiana’… I’ve got a lot of fond memories of that dog.”
You’re gonna get killed chasing after your damn fortune and glory!”
- Who is you favorite Indiana Jones character and why?
- What would you like to see in future editions of Fan Art Friday?