, 15 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
Indiana Jones kept showing up on my Twitter feed over the last week thanks to #HATM and @SUEtheTrex

I’m here to offer a spirited archaeological defense of the original Indiana Jones movies in a short thread with five clear points (no I'm not willing to die on this hill)
1: The movies are fun. They’re nostalgic for many of us. I doubt many will argue with this point, but it’s really important. The fun aspect of the movies draws people into archaeology. If all we do is bash them, then we turn people away from our field.
2a: Archaeologists whine that Indy is a terrible archaeologist. But they’re using modern archaeological methods as a yardstick: save all cultural material, pay attn to context, etc

These movies were made in the ‘80s and were set in the ‘30s. We need to judge by those standards
2b: Many “archaeologists” of the 19th and early 20th century were no better than explorers & treasure hunters. They threw out most finds into a spoil heap or ground unpainted ceramic sherds to dust (as was done at Knossos and other sites)

Like Indy, they cared about “pretties”
2c: Nor did many early archaeologists care about context or preserving monuments. We don’t have find contexts for many famous museum pieces, they’re as good as looted to us today

Early archaeologists had no qualms destroying monuments to understand earlier “important” phases
3a: A related problem with Indiana Jones is that it is soooo colonial

Well, no shit Sherlock. Archaeology has a deep colonial history. Look at the arguments over repatriation or how archaeologists treated locals or how archaeologists supported early race science
3b: Archaeology was (and sometimes still is) colonial. Colonial powers justified authority and “excellence” over locals by claiming local material culture and framing the narratives of indigenous pasts

Of course Indy is colonial, that’s an accurate portray of the time!
4a: Archaeologists frequently joke that the danger & espionage Indy was embroiled in isn’t representative of archaeology

It was a different world then. In the @ASCSAthens archives I’ve seen the pistol & 2 daggers W.B. Dinsmoor carried while touring students around Greece in 1911
4b: Early archaeologists were also wrapped up in diplomacy & espionage. Many fought against the Nazis (e.g., John Pendlebury who fought and died against the Nazis on Crete), and others were real spies or worked to hide cultural heritage (see Classical Spies by Susan Heuck Allen)
5: While certain aspects of these movies from the 80s haven’t aged well (casual racism, sexism, glorifying colonialsm) that is true of most movies from the time

The Indy movies need to be seen thru these historiographical lenses. They are representative of 80s Hollywood
Conclusion: We are better off embracing the fun of the original movies. They draw people to the discipline & can be a launching off point to show how archaeology has grown into a more scientific, colonially conscious discipline in the last few decades. Learning moments.
Conclusion2: the more recent Indy movie (the crystal skull) failed at the box office b/c it tried to pretend it was still the 80s. Updates to the franchise need to do a better job at not glorifying colonialism and racist ancient aliens theories.

Future movies need to do better.
Btw, if you like fun threads on archaeology and history, why not check out this thread below on drugs in ancient Greece
I wanted to link to the discussion below to further nuance some of the points in the thread
And a fantastic rebuttal to my thread by @riveramichael that really highlights why future films (whether Indiana Jones or not), really need to do a better job

Archaeology, in real life and in film, needs to do better at accepting and promoting all people
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