Indiana Jones And The
Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Commentary On The Movie
May 26, 2008
I recently had the pleasure? of watching the latest
installment in the Indiana Jones saga: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull. I am the first to admit it was a good
adventure movie in the tradition of past Indiana Jones movies from
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
The irony in this for me, was that I was contacted
by a staffer at Lucas a couple of years back about my expertise on
the subject of Crystal Skulls, and on Peru. I agreed to
participate, and suggested several other archaeologists as specific
experts in several subject areas. I never heard from them
again! However, I am left
to guess at the reasons why they did not use credible archaeologists
in the conceptualization of this movie. I assume that they
knew they were going to go way over the top, producing a total false
story, and that if they shared
the plot line, no one would have helped them.
But as I sat there, in a packed cinema, with
hundreds of other movie goers taking in the unimaginable number of
modern archaeological myths, from Area 51 to Roswell to Nazca Lines to Crystal
Skulls, I had to wonder what idiot was responsible for the
hodgepodge of farce, false tales, urban legends, and out right lies.
Wikipedia has a good description of the genesis of
this story line and the creation of this farce, which
both Harrison Ford and Steve Spielberg resisted (no
doubt they recalled that other great George Lucas film
"Howard the Duck"!)
Unfortunately, I didn't make a copy of the movie
for reference (you get thrown in jail now for that), but I will go over the main falsehoods in the film.
Alien Bodies in the Nevada desert
Does any one really believe that the government would keep the
corpses of extraterrestrials in an unairconditioned hanger in
the middle of the Nevada desert? Assuming there were alien
bodies to be kept?
Archaeology Professors examine Aliens
Here again, would an archaeologist examine alien remains?
No. I can't think of a single case where an archaeologist
was called in for a crash site. This is the equivalent of
asking a paleontologist to examine a lizard that was caught in
the landing gear of an airliner.
makes a statement about the Mitchell-Hedges Skull, and how it
had fascinated him before he became an archaeologist, but there
is evidence that Mitchell-Hedges bought the skull in the 1940s!
Indy became an Archaeologist in the early thirties (per the
story line). He also mentioned that the two skulls were
Mesoamerican - they are neither. The British Museum skull
is a fraud, and so too most likely is the Mitchell-Hedges skull,
since there is no proof that it also is not of modern
manufacture. So in short, neither is Mesoamerican (however,
I will be happy to be PROVED wrong about the Mitchell-Hedges
Indi gets a letter
A letter is delivered to
Indy by his estranged son. The letter is supposedly
written in the written language of an Eastern Peruvian /
Amazonian culture, that Jones knows well enough to translate it
(through Mayan, no less!). The problem is that the South
American cultures produced no such written language, based upon
the fact that there are NO RECORDS of such a language.
Flying To Peru
This is not
an archaeological issue, but none the less... In the scene when
Indy and Mutt are flying to Peru, a Pan American Aircraft is
shown. It is an Antonov AN-2. Pan Am never flew this Russian
aircraft! Also, the shot is backwards; the writing on the
aircraft (airline name and registration) read backwards.
Indy and Mutt fly to Nazca, Peru
Nazca is only 4 hours away on bus from the capital Lima, yet the
city they show on the movie is Cuzco, which is 24 hours away
from Lima. Cuzco is on the east side of the country, Nazca is on
the west coast right next to Lima. Also, back in 1957 only Lima
had an airport, yet they show a Nazca airport that didn't exist.
For more history of Nazca and the lines visit
The NAZCA Airport
arrives in Peru at the Nazca airport. Only problem is the
sign says NAZCA, Nazca is the English spelling, NASCA is the
Nazca Lines Location
simple fact, the Nazca Lines are near Nazca, not at Nazca.
They are actually spread out over several nearby valleys and
The NAZCA Lines
scene where they are at the cemetery in Nazca, they show the
Nazca lines right off the cemetery. The lines are not so close
that you can see the grouping pictured, plus there are no cliffs
like the one dipicted north of the lines. Also, the lines
are just a shade different than the surrounding soil, those in
the movie almost appeared painted white. Visit
for the reality of the Nazca Lines.
Speaking Maya In Peru
Professor Ox is talking Mayan in the temple in Peru. In the
Peruvian jungle, they speak Aymara (today). At no time did
Peruvians speak Maya. Mayan was spoken in Mexico,
Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America.
Off The Wall
As the group
passes through the tunnels, the local protectors come out of the
walls. Since they could be killed easily, they were
humans. Yet we see them breaking through stone carvings
and walls to emerge. In the process, they do a good job of
destroying the iconography they seem to be protecting.
Hodgepodge of Cultures
Regardless of Aliens playing tourists and collecting
knickknacks, the temple and pyramid would have to have been
constructed by locals. You see design elements from every
Central American and Mexican culture represented, yet almost
none of the native Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Columbian, or Chilean
cultural motifs represented well. Not a Tumi knife to be
found! Clearly the set designers failed to do
their home work. Regardless, it became a meaningless mess,
and just served to increase the impossibility of the story line.
Pre-Columbian Skull Deformation
that part right. From Mexico to Peru, parents bound the
skulls of their children of cause massive deformities in the
skulls of their children, to mold them into shape of a cone (click
here for an example). However, it should have been
pointed out that there remains a mystery surrounding this
practice - how the style and methods were communicated from Peru
Looters And Grave Robbers
One of the great harms of this and all such
movies is the way it portrays archaeologists. Indy IS a
GRAVE ROBBER. AND he uses NO scientific methods in his
discoveries. Archaeology is about systematic painstaking
methods to do the least harm, and recover as close to 100% as is
possible. Indy leaves nothing behind. Ironically,
this was the tradition of the likes of Mitchell-Hedges too (per
his own words), and his contemporaries.
Hopefully, if nothing else comes from this movie,
it will be a deeper interest in the hard science of archaeology and
our ancient cultural heritage. However, I suspect that Lucas
and company have permanently stamped the nonsense of crystal skull
worship into the global psyche.