`Indiana Jones': Real Archaeologists Don't Have Whips

Indiana Jones managed to retrieve the trinket he was after in the opening moments of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" but he pretty much wrecked everything else in the ancient South American temple where the little gold idol had rested for millennia.

Though he preaches research and good science in the classroom, the world's most famous archeologist often is an acquisitive tomb raider in the field, with a scorched-earth policy about what he leaves behind. While actual archeologists like the guy and his movies, they wouldn't necessarily want to work alongside him on a dig.

Indy's bull-in-a-china-shop approach to archeology will be on display again May 22 with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," in which he's sure to rain destruction down on more historic sites and priceless artifacts.

Real experts in antiquities acknowledge that the movies are pure fiction that present archeology as blockbuster adventure, yet they cannot help but cringe at the way Indy manhandles the ancient world.

"There are codes of ethics in archeology and I don't think he would be a member. Not in good standing, anyway," said Mark Rose, online editorial director for the Archaeological Institute of America.

"It wouldn't be quite as much fun if you followed protocol, I think," said Karen Allen, who is reprising her "Raiders" role as Indy's old flame Marion Ravenwood. "Crystal Skull" reunites Allen with Harrison Ford as Indy, director Steven Spielberg and executive producer George Lucas.

In a career spanning 27 years and three previous films, Indy has been both a blessing and curse for the musty world of archeology, fanning interest in the field beyond academic circles but doing a Hollywood number on how the job actually works.

In 1989's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," nerdy Prof. Henry Jones Jr. tells students that 70 per cent of archeology is done in the library and advises them to "forget any ideas you've got about lost cities, exotic travel and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and 'X' never, ever marks the spot."

Trading his classroom tweeds for his leather jacket and fedora hat, his alter-ego Indiana Jones then proceeds to smash through crypts, kill scores of Nazis and desecrate a grave by using a human leg bone as a torch. And, in one scene, "X" literally does mark the spot.

The reality of archeological field work is not a lone hero dashing into hidden chambers with a bullwhip and a pistol and coming away with a priceless relic. It's large groups of academics and students painstakingly sifting through grids to retrieve artifacts as mundane as pottery fragments.

"It is rather adventurous in a way, because for the most part, you're going to some exotic country and delving into their past. But it's not an adventure with a whip and chasing bad guys and looking for treasure," said Bryant Wood, an archeologist with Associates for Biblical Research.

"You're working at one site tediously, probably for many, many years and spending more time processing the finds and writing reports than you do actually digging at the site. But that wouldn't make for a very good story, spending 70 per cent of the time in a library."

The most exciting thing that happens to many archeologists in the field might be battling dysentery or coping with a lemon of a Land Rover.

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