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

"I spent a lot of time walking in cornfields and soy bean fields in the Midwest, and nothing very dramatic ever happened while I was out looking for artifacts," said Rose of the Archaeological Institute, whose trustees include Indy star Ford.

"To be honest, it's a lot of drudge work. You can end up producing a 600-page PhD dissertation, and it's important and useful and it's good that someone has done it. But it's not going to be made into a major motion picture anytime soon."

Paul Zimansky, an archeology professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, once had an adventure reminiscent of Indy's fear of snakes. Zimansky had to drive at breakneck speed to get a colleague to a doctor after he was bitten by a viper in Iran.

On a dig in Iraq, one student dressed like Indy, minus the whip, and whenever the team made a notable find, they would play the "Indiana Jones" fanfare, Zimansky said.

Indy's main value in the academic world has been as an inspiration to aspiring archeologists, said Zimansky, who noticed a spike in new students in the early 1990s while teaching at Boston University.

"If you asked these people why they were becoming archeologists, it always starts off with Indiana Jones. It actually converted a number of people. They got their initial interest in archeology from Indiana Jones," Zimansky said.

The students certainly knew they were studying to be scholars, not treasure hunters, though Zimansky would have liked Indy to be a more realistic role model.

"I wish he'd take more notes and things. What's his publication record?" Zimansky said. "But I don't think anybody ever bought the ethos of Indiana Jones as a real career track."

Adds Jane MacLaren Walsh, an anthropologist for the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History: "Some people would like to think of themselves as Indiana Jones, but nobody I know really fits the bill at all."

Other than Indy's brief classroom scenes, the closest thing to authentic archeology in the "Indiana Jones" flicks is done by the bad guys, whose elaborate, systematic digs in "Raiders" resemble actual excavations.

"Not a whole lot of what we know as archeology goes on in these movies, except what the Nazis do. They seem to be doing some real archeological work," said Walsh, who wrote the cover story in the May-June issue of Archaeology magazine examining the real history of crystal skulls featured in the new "Indiana Jones" movie.

Jaime Awe, director of the Institute of Archaeology in Belize, is a big fan of the "Indiana Jones" movies but shows them to students as "examples of what not to do," he said.

"I tell them the only difference between Indiana Jones and myself is he always gets the goodies and gets the beautiful women and gets paid a lot of money and I don't get any of that," Awe said.

"But I have a hell of a lot of fun just like he does and it's just as much an adventure. Most of us do archeology because we love the opportunity to explore, to discover, to search for clues," said Awe, who appears on the Sci-Fi Channel documentary "Mystery of the Crystal Skulls," premiering May 18. "It's like having a big sandbox. Like Indiana Jones, we keep being kids at heart."

"Indiana Jones" and other productions such as "The Mummy" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" flicks benefit archeology by getting general audiences thinking and talking about the ancient world, said Bob Murowchick, associate professor of archeology at Boston University.

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