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These Archaeologists Debunked 11 Things From "Indiana Jones"

We're only talking about the first three movies here, because Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a travesty.

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1. There are no fancy booby traps in ancient tombs, sorry.

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Tombs are not well-preserved. We're talking about things that are THOUSANDS of years old here. Think about it: Your iPhone can't even last a year. "If it's anything old, it's not going to survive (i.e., boulder rolling down a cave)," Field Museum and University of Illinois at Chicago archaeologist William Parkinson, Ph.D., told BuzzFeed.

"The ruins [in the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark] are supposedly Chachapoyan, about whom there is an incredible amount of nonsense written, but they didn't booby trap their burials, which were mostly in the walls of the city or under the floors of houses," archaeologist Kris Hirst told BuzzFeed via email.

2. In fact, archaeologists would never destroy a dig site — let alone a freakin' library — to get an artifact.

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"Yeah, we try not to do that ... It just doesn't make any sense," Parkinson said.

"We don't really dig for 'artifacts' any more, we dig for ideas, and the whole point of excavation is screwed if you don't dig it carefully and take great notes — excavation is a supremely destructive activity ... A gold idol or two doesn't tell you a whole lot," said Hirst.

3. Snakes and other wildlife are not a huge problem for archaeologists.

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"You can't really be squeamish and successful as an archaeologist. You live and work in dirt, often sleeping in a tent or an abandoned building: if you're lucky, you land in a university dorm room for a few months," said Hirst.

Wild animals can be a problem for an archeologist, but isn't a huge concern. When asked if he would willingly be dropped into a pit of snakes in order to find a rare and valuable artifact, Parkinson replied, "No!"

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4. Modern archaeologists don't buy artifacts from shady dealers at nightclubs, but it wasn't unusual during Indy's time.

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In the early 20th century, it wasn't uncommon for museums to buy illegal antiquities from dealers. Many Egyptian artifacts in museums across the United States were actually purchased from looters who ripped apart and destroyed a site.

"We don't do that anymore," Parkinson said, though it's still a billion-dollar business on the black market. "It funds terrorism in many parts of the world," he added.

5. Forget about that bullwhip. The only practical component of Indy's badass outfit is his hat.

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"That's more for the sun than the look," said Parkinson. Instead of a bullwhip, archaeologists do carry a trowel shovel. "That's the go-to instrument for an archaeologist," he said.

6. The artifacts Indiana Jones coveted so dearly aren't even close to being historically accurate.

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"The movie prop [in Raiders] was based on a greenstone carving from a fake Aztec artifact. Prehistoric gold objects in pre-Columbian America were very thin sheets of gold applied to walls and other artifacts, not solid gold statues," Hirst said.

7. The Temple of Doom was racist.

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"The Temple of Doom script was set in Northern India. The especially racist view of the followers of the Hindu goddess Kali was so shallow and one-sided it offended the government to the point that [Steven] Spielberg couldn't film there. If I have a least favorite, this is it. Ugh," said Hirst.

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8. But the Holy Grail temple in the Last Crusade was filmed at a real place: Petra, Jordan.

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"That site is so much more interesting than the Holy Grail story that it makes my ears bleed," said Kirst. The Holy Grail temple was actually a Nabatean tomb.

The Nabataeans were ancient Arab spice traders who cornered the Mediterranean market on frankincense (resin used in incense and perfumes) around 100 B.C.

"They built the fabulous city of Petra in the Jordanian desert with a terrific water control system. Fooey on your Holy Grail," said Hirst.

9. Local bandits can be dangerous, but lawyers actually cause more problems for archaeologists.

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"Local bandits know there is a great market in stolen and looted artifacts, and in fact, the illegal antiquities trade is nearly lucrative as drug and human trafficking, and there's much, much less political will anywhere to stop it," said Hirst.

"One of the fine lines archaeologists walk in their day-to day-lives is 'who owns the past': why is a white guy excavating in India at all, when there are plenty of Indian archaeologists working there. And if you're an Hindu archaeologist, you need to be very careful excavating a Muslim site, and vice versa," said Hirst.

"The kind of battles we wage are not with a gun and whip or some stupid Nazi. Usually, our battles are in the courts of law where we are trying to prevent cultural heritage from being destroyed," said Parkinson.

10. Indiana Jones would probably end up in jail.

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"He'd definitely be kicked out of every country he snuck into, if not thrown into jail... Archaeology is dangerous—but not for the snakes and bandits. People tend to either think it's a useless waste of the taxpayers' money, or a violation of somebody's cultural heritage by an interloper. That can get you killed, or at least shamed out of the profession," said Hirst.

11. And real archaeologists can probably drink Marion under the table.

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"Once I was in a small town and we drank the bar dry. That's not much of a miracle: archaeologists are typically very very thirsty, but the locals were not happy," said Hirst.

Science Writer

Contact Natasha Umer at natasha.umer@buzzfeed.com.

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