Is Indiana Jones Bad for Archaeology – No

Sean Curtis's image for:
"Is Indiana Jones Bad for Archaeology - No"
Image by: 

The reason for asking "Is Indiana Jones bad for Archaeology," I'm assuming, is that the Indiana Jones films tend to misrepresent what it means to be an archaeologist and study archaeology. The films present the field as being full of adventure, danger, violence, and excitement, when in fact most archaeology is done in libraries researching, or meticulously excavating dig sites one ounce of dirt at a time.

First of all, what seems to be implicit in the question is that archaeology is boring. I think most archaeologists would take serious issue with this claim. While it is true that a good deal of archaeology involves reading and researching, if this is your passion it is anything but boring. Archaeologists probably find very few things more exciting than piecing together a fragment of a forgotten society, finding a clue to reveal a new, undiscovered truth, or unearthing another historically significant artifact. To assume this is boring work is an injustice to the entire field of archaeology.

As well, Indiana Jones is set in a completely different time period. It's in fact true that the Nazi were scouring the world in an attempt to collect certain historical artifacts. While the film greatly exaggerates this drama, it's not inconceivable that at the time archaeologists were racing to keep important artifacts out of the hands of the Nazis. Whether or not their were ever any direct confrontations that involved adventure or violence is another question, but it stands to reason that at least some secrecy and intrigue may have been inherent to the time period.

To say that Indiana Jones is bad for archaeology is like saying "Space Cowboys" was bad for astronauts. When going into an action adventure movie, the viewer is expected, at least to some degree, to suspend their disbelief. We know that these are just actors on the screen, and we should be wise enough to also know that the story's drama has been heightened to keep the excitement high.

Finally, if the film inspires someone to get involved in archaeology, even under an exaggerated pretense, is that so bad? Where is the harm in someone striking up an interest in archaeology because he or she wants to take adventures around the world. While there probably won't be any sword fights and zeppelin rides, archaeology can take you to places you never dreamed of going. And in that way, the film is actually a benefit to archaeology.

More about this author: Sean Curtis

From Around the Web