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Indiana Jones

Credit: Wikimedia

Science writer Erik Vance posted a good piece this week titled “Why Archaeologists Hate Indiana Jones” at the science blog The Last Word on Nothing. His piece is a kind of companion and commentary to his more formal National Geographic article in August about looting at archaeological sites in Guatemala.

Much as we might get a kick out of Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequel films, when it comes down to it, Indiana Jones is not an archaeologist but a looter. As one Tulane archaeologist told Vance:

“That first scene, where he’s in the temple and he’s replacing that statue with a bag of sand — that’s what looters do. [The temple builders] are using these amazing mechanisms of engineering and all he wants to do is steal the stupid gold statue.”

Vance makes the point that

A real archaeologist would have taken a photo of it, told the Nazis they could have the stupid thing, and spent the next 10 years studying the temple’s booby traps.

The National Geographic article stresses the harm that is done through the looting of ancient sites. Some antiquities collector gets a few pots for his collection, and meanwhile a whole building gets destroyed. Those pots might be interesting and valuable, but their archaeological value is practically nil if no record is made of the context in which they were found.

I follow archaeology news because it informs my Edhai project, an historical fiction series set in ancient times. To keep in touch with me and to receive updates on my project, as well as my comments on ancient history, fiction writing, and other topics, please follow this link to sign up for my email newsletter: http://eepurl.com/2U3Uf

ARK — 11 September 2014

 

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