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Indiana Jones: The Men Behind the Myth

How Did China Lose its Treasures?

Evening Course

Monday, May 16, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0176B
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$25 - Gen. Admission
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The bronze head of a rat, one of 12 Chinese zodiac animal fountainheads looted from the Old Summer Palace by British and French expeditionary forces in 1860

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The Indiana Jones series is one of the most popular and iconic film franchises in the history of Hollywood. But just how accurate is it? Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University, explores the history behind the cinematic legend, drawing on events from Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 to the controversy over in the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1923. He also examines the antiquities trade in China. By the end of the saga, understand not only how major museums acquired their collections, but where and when the film franchise diverges or converges with historical realities.  

Jacobs is the author of several books, including Indiana Jones in History and The Compensations of Plunder: How China Lost Its Treasures. He is also the instructor for “World Heritage Sites: Exploring the World’s Greatest Places,” a 24-episode series for The Great Courses.

Session Information

How Did China Lose its Treasures?

In stark contrast to the rest of the world, in China Indiana Jones came face to face with a domestic educated elite that had been preserving, studying, and cherishing its own antiquities for thousands of years. And yet the result was much the same as elsewhere: By the middle of the 20th century, tens of thousands of priceless works of art and antiquities had been taken out of the country and placed into foreign museums around the world. Jacobs unravels the unique dynamic of the antiquities trade in China, from the sale of oracle bones to desert expeditions along the Silk Road.

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