British archaeologist Howard Carter cleaning the second coffin of Tutankhamun, ca. 1924
Indiana Jones is an appealing figure: a handsome, thoughtful professor by day, swashbuckling savior of the world’s archaeological treasures by night. Although Jones is fictional, many of the major themes in the film franchise that celebrates his exploits are reflected in the stories of significant archaeological expeditions and missions of exploration throughout the world, from the excavation of Pompeii in 1750 to the Cold War-era race to the moon. Indy as both a familiar movie character and an archetype offers a fascinating lens though which to examine the political controversies and historical contexts of archaeology and exploration.
Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University, leads the expedition into real-life and Hollywood-style history. He is the author and producer of a book and documentary series, Indiana Jones in History: From Pompeii to the Moon, which uncovers the politics of antiquities, exploration, and empires.
Did Hollywood Get It Right??
How accurate are the Indiana Jones films? Did George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg do their homework? Would an historical Indiana Jones actually fight Nazis while searching for Biblical treasures? In the 1930s, could Jones be British or French, or must he be an American? How are the local Arab, Muslim, and Hindu populations who help or hinder Jones portrayed? Do the movies make any historical sense at all, or are they mostly flights of fancy filled with degrading stereotypes? With the aid of a leaked transcript of a brainstorming session for the first film and a critical eye toward all four Hollywood films, Jacobs weighs fact against cinematic fiction and demonstrates the ways in which popular culture intersects with the truth of the past.
To view the full lecture series description or view other sessions, click here.
Take a look at “The Great Belzoni” episode the Indiana Jones in History documentary series by Justin M. Jacobs. It tells the story of Giovanni Belzoni, an Italian circus strongman who in the early 19th century undertook the first major archaeological expedition to Egypt and introduced the art and culture of the pharaohs to the Western public.
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