Archaeology

Is Indiana Jones Bad for Archaeology – No



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Sometimes, you see an debate topic on Helium that just makes you stop and wonder how on Earth it came up in the first place. 'Is Indiana Jones bad for Archaeology' certainly gave me one of those arresting moments. Is this seriously a problem that's concerning archaeologists at the moment?

Believe it or not, I actually have some tenuous links to the field, and could, by the skin of my teeth, actually class myself an archaeologist. This was one of my lesser subjects in higher education, which I scraped through a pass, along with what would qualify in the US as a 'major' in Latin. Not exactly the sort of thing that's going to persuade anyone to let me loose on a dig, but nevertheless. I also have at least two friends from school who really did go on to finish a degree in the subject. They've managed to avoid feeling terribly hurt by the occasional references to bullwhips, or how their summer vacations were spent running down corridors closely pursued by rolling boulders. That, as far as I can tell, is about the only impact the Indy movies have had on their lives.

If Raiders of the Lost Ark had set out to be a in-depth documentary about the science of archaeology, I could almost understand this question; I can't believe there's anyone in the world who can claim this, though. Making Doctor Jones an archaeologist was a convenient plot hook; it gave him an excuse to be rummaging through lost temples, it made him an ideal choice to be looking for the Ark of the Covenant, or the Holy Grail. The films so far have, for the most part, been light-hearted, whimsical action movies, rather than any reflection on the profession, past or present. Do the Superman movies belittle journalism because Clark Kent works for the Daily Planet?

There seems to be a deep human urge, almost primal, to read far too much into things which aren't really meant to read deeply. This is why there are fan sites across the Internet discussing the deep personal motivations of the characters in shows like 'Thundercats' or 'He-man and the Masters of the Universe'. Keep looking guys, because there aren't any; these were kids TV shows designed to sell action figures. Likewise, the Indiana Jones movies were simply the latest in a line of Hollywood action movies, an excuse for Harrison Ford to have some fun, and another chance for Stephen Spielberg to make the Nazis the bad guys again.

Coming soon: Why the Flintstones have set the field of paleontology back fifty years.

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