11 Jul 2012

Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology!

Cue John Williams soundtrack for the Indiana Jones movies (you know, ta-ta-taaaaaa ta-ta-taaaaa ta-ta-taaaaaaaa ta-ta-ta-taa...)

No? Perhaps this will help (just hit play and then continue through the rest of the post):

Now let us join our favourite Professor to discover the Adventure of Archaeology! :o)

No idea what I'm talking about? Well, clicking on that link above will help. Basically there's this new exhibition travelling around the world called Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology presented by the National Geographic Society. It was created in Montreal, and from there headed out to Valencia... just 2h north of Alicante, and where I have family! It's taken me several months, but I finally went to see it this past Sunday, and had a blast! :o)

H.Ford's outfit in Crystal Skull
 The creators of the exhibition want you to be immersed "in the science and history of field archaeology. Walk in the footsteps of beloved film hero Indiana Jones as you embark on this interactive museum adventure." The four Indiana Jones films are our conduit into the field of archaeology. They want us to understand why certain artefacts are considered a treasure and what we can learn from them, why the relationship between an object and the archaeological site it comes from is important, what clues archaeologists look for and the different techniques used to analyse newly found artefacts and finally how archaeologists sift fact from fiction and interpret their findings. Plus telling us lots of cool stuff about the movies themselves! And it all starts off with a "Welcome" by the Man himself, Dr Henry Jones Jr. - Indy for his friends -, Harrison Ford! ;o)

"Interactive museum adventure" hmmm... well, interactive if you participate in the treasure hunt (more on that later), if you don't the only interaction you get is by determining the order you want to visit the exhibition and what videos/explanations you watch/listen to on the handheld multimedia guide they give you.

If you follow the pre-established order (but like I said you can jump around), you start of with Raiders of the Lost Ark

You learn that the inspiration behind the "Chachapoyan fertility idol" was a statue of an Aztec fertility goddess and that the headpiece of the "Staff of Ra" came from the solar disc (circle) that is present above the head of Ra in depictions in the Egyptian pyramids.

Plus a short history/mythology lesson about the Ark of the Covenant... and of course some movie clips and "making of" sequences ("Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes.").

On to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! Did you know that Willie's dress at the beginning of the movie was made with original beading from the 1930s? And that an elephant ate it?! lol!!! Also, ILM -which was created for Star Wars- was in charge of the special effects in the Indy movies... and they just couldn't help inserting little easter eggs into the different films! For example, there are hieroglyphs in Raiders depicting R2-D2 and C-3PO, and again in Crystal Skull. And did anyone pay attention to the name of that night club at the beginning of Temple of Doom? "Club Obi Wan"! :o)

As for the "Sankara stones"... darn! I don't remember everything they said, except they talked about the original Thuggis (eliminated by the British army in India) and referred to the cult and legends of Kali (which made my mind segue over to Sanctuary, oops!)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was the only one of the original trilogy that I saw in the cinema (I was living in Saudi Arabia when the other two came out, no movie theatres there!), and as soon as they arrived in front of the "Grail Temple" (in Petra, Jordan) after riding through the "Canyon of the Crescent Moon" I turned to my mom and said "I know this place... I've been there, right?" Boy was she glad to see I remembered some of all our crazy travels from when we lived in Saudi! :p

"young" Indy's Eagle Scout medal and hat and the famous whip, and the "Cross of Coronado"

Apparently it was George Lucas who insisted that "only James Bond could be Indiana's father", and the best Bond of them all was Sean Connery! Definitely a brilliant casting call imho! :o) And all the details that went into recreating the various clues that would lead them to the Grail, like the shield of the "dead brother", Henry's "Grail Diary" and the painting of the third test "A Leap of Faith"... fabulous!

When it comes to the Grail itself, they explain how archaeologists need to know about the historical context of an artefact in order to be able to understand what it is (in this case that Jesus was a carpenter, so wouldn't have used a golden goblet!)

the "cup of life"... vs. the wrong choice.

Ok, I'll admit that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a bit of a let-down (between the refrigerator scene and the aliens... *sigh*), but I still had a lot of fun watching it! Mutt's motorcycle is very cool, and I love me a good swordfight any day of the week!

Plus we got Marion back (yay!) and the fabulous Cate Blanchett was the bad gal! As they explained her "look" and style, the narrator said that Blanchett gave a lot of input on her character (even researching hair styles!) and that as a child, when other girls wanted to be with Indiana Jones, she wanted to beat him! :o)

And yeah, not a big fan of the alien idea... but those crystal skulls were pretty awesome! :p

After all the movie stuff, the machine thingy guides you to some authentic artefacts  from some pretty important digs from around the world! Such as these gold goblet, necklace and earrings from a tomb in ancient Ur (birthplace of Abraham in Mesopotamia) circa 2500 BC:

Or this cuneiform tablet from Niopur (Iraq) circa 2300-2100 BC:

They talk about the importance of properly documenting digs and the use of photography with photos from the original expeditions to Machu Picchu, and the discovery of the giant Olmec heads (in Mexico) by the Sterlings:

I remember seeing these things as a kid... massive!

Or solving the mysteries of ancient languages, like these Mayan glyphs from the Temple of Yatichtlan in the Lacandon Jungle in Chiapas (Mexico, one of the sites my mom dreamed of going to but we never managed to):

Ok, time to wrap this up... with the really interactive part: a treasure hunt! Sprinkled throughout the exhibition there are these numbered posts that you set your computer thingy on and a puzzle appears on your screen that needs solving! You need to study various elements in the exhibition to help, but once solved you get a piece of the "artefact" you're supposed to be putting together. Once you've got all ten pieces, you get to joined the ranks of esteemed archaeologists!

I must say, it was quite fun (even better watching kids run around looking for the next clue), and some of the puzzles were NOT easy to solve! :o)

Hope you guys enjoyed this! I had a lot of fun at the exhibition, but it's not as much fun reading about something as doing it yourself. So if this comes your way some day (dunno where it's going after Valencia), you should definitely check it out! Just beware of crushing boulders...

That thing should have a warning sign on it! :p


  1. If it ever makes it here, I'll definitely go and think of you the whole time! Really neat information about archaeology, Cris.

    1. :o)

      My mom stuck me with the archaeology bug when I was a kid... all that travelling around and visiting ruins and telling interesting stories about them! Of course, being a fan of Indiana Jones didn't hurt either! :p It's all part of what fuelled my fascination with History, a subject I almost majored in at University instead of Biology!

  2. Very cool post! I just finished watching all of the Indiana Jones movies on the weekend. I never get tired of them.

    1. I'm in the midst of rewatching them (for the umpteenth time!) this week myself! :o)
      I just saw Temple of Doom with lunch today, same meal during which I saw it for the first time in ~ 1987! I'll never forget that "Snake Surprise" YIKES! :p


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