The Indiana Jones movies have inspired interest in archaeology, even though the movies are based around a fictitious character. These films do not give archaeology a bad name at all: They focus on the adventures of an intelligent, respectable man who is passionate about his profession, and is an extremely skillful professor and researcher.
Even within these fictional plots, the at times unbelievable feats of Doctor Jones bring him a measure of fame in a science that was still new, and virtually ignored by the general public. Although Steven Spielberg brought this previously disregarded discipline into the public eye via major motion pictures, it should not be confused with real archaeology of the 1930s or the 2000s. After all, we're talking about a Hollywood film character, not real life.
== Indy's Infamy ==
Indy's field methodology was a very "seat-of-your-pants" thought process, and avoiding booby traps, following cryptic clues, and unraveling ancient mysteries became his trademarks. This characteristic lack of strategy is a big (if not the biggest) draw of the movie series. As Jones himself once said, "I'm making this up as I go."
Do people think real archaeologists steal golden idols, jump off cliffs, or crack bullwhips because of Indiana Jones? Any educated person probably does not, since the line between Hollywood heroics and real life is usually plenty thick. Alternatively, could anyone picture Indy tediously and painstakingly brushing off bones at a contemporary dig site, or sitting at the library researching his latest subject? Hardly.
Because of his amazing exploits, Indy was famous (or infamous, depending on who was asked), even in his own time. He has been called a grave robber more than once, which stands to reason, considering his personal lack of protocol when acquiring rare antiquities. However, he was the exception. Although he earned a Doctorate and became a tenured university professor of history and archaeology, we are left to assume that other, real archaeologists of the 1930s conformed to a more methodical, passive stereotype.
Moviegoers should (and do) realize that Spielberg's main point in making films around such a remarkable character was to tell a series of creative, entertaining stories, not to deliver a documentary on archaeologists of the 1930s. Do the Indiana Jones films cast a bad light on archaeology? Not for those who know the difference between reality and fiction.
== Archaeology: A Brief History ==
According to the U.S. National Park Service, American settlers first became interested in excavating earthen mounds during the 1700s, recording historical finds and collecting antiquities. Interested folks created societies, formed federal agencies, wrote publications, and established national parks, all for this emerging science of studying ancient cultures and finding and preserving artifacts.
Skip ahead to the 1930s. Archaeology was growing in popularity, thanks in part to Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" employment programs. The American population learned the results of historic structure research, reconstruction, and various other archaeological projects. It was during this decade that Indiana Jones would have had most of his adventures, most likely at the same time as other American archaeologists like James Griffin and Gordon Willey.
Since then, the interest in and scope of archaeological activity has grown. The basic premise of exploration and artifact preservation is the same, but it is a much more procedure-driven science than it was in Indy's day.
== Summary ==
Based on its history, archaeology is running under its own steam and is as self-sufficient as any other science; the Indiana Jones movies neither help nor hurt. Many people naturally gravitate to an occupation because of their own liking for the science or the work, not because Hollywood makes it look good or bad.
== Bonus Footage ==
Curious about what Indiana Jones might have seen had he been real? To read about various "Raiders of the Lost Ark" findings, check out the detailed journal of real-life archaeologist Dr. David West Reynolds, entitled "The Archaeology of Indiana Jones." These six pages are the first and only installment, but the journal is still a fascinating trip through the legendary opening scene of the movie.