Fiction vs. Reality: What If 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' Happened in Real Life?

Fiction vs. Reality: What If 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' Happened in Real Life?

Feb 07, 2012

August 16, 1936

Dear Prof. Jones:

Thank you for submitting your manuscript, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” to the American Journal of Archaeology. Your manuscript was evaluated by external reviewers and was discussed among the editors. Although it is interesting, I am sorry to say it was not accepted for publication. This was an editorial decision and reflects an assessment of the merits of your manuscript as compared with the many others we receive.

Your presentation of the materials was considered satisfactory, but it was not deemed sufficient to overcome concerns about your fieldwork ethics. Specifically, we feel it necessary to remind you that an archaeologist’s job is to preserve historical objects, not to plunder them for personal gain and while in the process, destroy everything within sight. Our reading of your letter and manuscript shows that you did not follow this code and thus, we cannot consider your paper for publication.

Below, please find a peer review from Mr. Piccirillo entitled, “Fiction vs. Reality: Raiders of the Lost Ark.”  Within this document, Mr. Piccirillo provides an eye-opening account of your journey (replete with Nazis (!), snakes (!), and an ex-lover (?)) in search of the Ark of the Covenant, a sojourn that ends with your sacrificing beloved colleague Dr. Renee Belloq in order to restore your love life. We suggest that future submissions include detailed notes, descriptions, and photographs of your dig – your submission includes none of these things.

We cannot, in good conscience, condone this behavior. We wish you well in publishing your work elsewhere.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to review this manuscript.


Dr. Marcus L. Fallen


American Journal of Archaeology

865 Beacon St. Boston, MA 02115


Scenario # 1

What Happens: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) heroically destroys ancient burial grounds in order to obtain a rare artifact for his “museum.”

Hollywood Version: After Indy dodges hilarious booby traps rigged by the road runner, Renee Belloq, a fellow archaeologist who had the forethought to learn the native language and befriend the locals, uses the tribe to capture Indy and reclaim the artifact.  The audience boos.  Indy is American and speaks English.  He deserves whatever he wants.

Reality: According to Franco Milies, Professor of Archaeology, Columbia University, “This is abhorrent.  Those traps – the arrows, the boulder, and the spear gates -- are carefully constructed defense systems that are of paramount importance in our understanding of the tribe’s culture and this idiot destroyed them all!  Dr. Belloq, on the other hand, is the hero of the film.  He adheres to all of our basic archaeological principles.”

Scenario # 2

What Happens: During one of Indy’s boring lectures, a female student tries to seduce him by baring her… eyelids. The rest of the mostly female class focuses only on Indy’s handsomeness and ignores the curriculum.

Hollywood Version: The audience smiles with knowing.

Reality #1: According to Sonia Marke, former head of National Organization for Women, “Scenes like these are why women have been subjugated for centuries. These women, afforded the ability to matriculate at a wonderful school, choose instead to waste their time trying to land the professor. When women today ask why they earn 75% for every man’s dollar, I direct them to this scene.”  

Reality #2: “This is a poor move,” asserts Rick Milkens, sexologist and author of Getting Your Man: A Guide for Young Women. “It’s pretty basic. Men are tempted by beauty and are turned off by commitment. This girl, in trying to tantalize an alpha male by offering exposed eyelids with declarations of love written on them, is actually pushing him away. No wonder he is so willing to embark on this ‘journey’ to avoid her. The Nazis are evil but at least they keep their emotions in check.”  

Scenario # 3

What Happens:  Indy runs into the former “girlfriend” Marion (Karen Allen) he apparently once sexually assaulted.

Hollywood Version: Marion says, “You took advantage!  I was too young!”  Indy creepily replies, “I did what I did and you knew what you were getting into.” He later half-heartedly says, “I’m sorry.”  Exasperated seconds after that declaration, he complains, “I can only say I’m sorry so many times!” She forgives him. The audience coos.

Reality: “The statue of limitations on that rape did not yet run out,” asserts Clive Mitchell, Chicago Assistant District Attorney. “ Plus, this is an admission of guilt.  I would file charges immediately.  Assuming he wasn’t off destroying ancient burial grounds at the time, he would serve 20 to 25 years easily.”

Scenario # 4

What Happens: Indy takes a break from destroying things to engage in a bar fight with Marion and some Nazis.

Hollywood Version: A bespeckled Nazi foolishly picks up a hot medallion without potholders and the metal burns through his skin. Marion avoids the same fate by first covering her hands with a piece of cloth.

Reality: According to NYPD firefighter Chris Davis, “A medallion immersed in a fire for that period of time would be at a temperature of about one thousand degrees.  Unless that piece of cloth was outfitted with a pyrohide leather outer shell, a Gore Crosstech glove membrane, and a Kevlar blend lining that is worn with a bunker coat that already has wrist attachments, Marion’s hand would basically melt.”

Scenario # 5

What Happens: After Indy and pal Sallah survey the vast, complicated, and well-structured excavation site operated by the Nazis, the boys discover that the coveted Ark of the Covenant is housed in a different location.

Hollywood Version: Indy and Sallah break into an old burial ground and set it (and all of the innocent snakes inside of it) on fire.  The audience… rejoices! How dare those snakes and Nazis get in Indy’s way, they say as they wave American flags and eat Pizza Hut Pizzones.

Reality: According to Dr. Marvin Leenex, Archaeologist, “Sadly, the Nazis come closest to getting right the spirit of archaeology.  They are careful, meticulous, and methodical in their excavation. And it’s more realistic. Most digs last for several years and relatively few artifacts are recovered. If they are, they must be analyzed and written about immediately. Dr. Jones’ shotgun blast approach to archaeology is deeply insulting to the study and the preservation of history. For shame that this film forces us all to root for the brave Nazis.”

Scenario # 6

What Happens: Marion cannot stop getting captured and threatened with sexual assault by Renee Belloq.

Hollywood Version: To get each other in the mood, Renee asks Marion to put on a nearby wedding dress.  Later, they engage in a drinking contest, which results in Marion grabbing a knife and… heroically falling over. The bespeckled Nazi returns and asks her, “What do you want to talk about?” the ominous music plays but nothing happens to her. They must have had a wonderful conversation.

Reality: According to Dr. Sandra Smith, NYC medical examiner, “It’s been my experience that when rapists and Nazis capture their victims, they don’t waste time with formalities like dinner, wine, and party dresses. They simply assault and murder them. They make the attackers seem so civilized. Frankly, this film plays as Nazi propaganda.”

Scenario # 7

What Happens: As Indy tries to save Marion from an out-of-control plane that she is driving in circles like my grandfather (don’t ask), a Nazi intercedes.

Hollywood Version: Rather than shoot Indy from a distance, the Nazi removes his shirt and decides to box with him. Indy bravely fights back employing tough-guy tactics such as hand-biting and throwing sand in the guy’s eyes. The audience cheers when the poor Nazi is accidentally killed by a runaway propeller.

Reality: After seeing this sad display, everyone including the Nazis, the townspeople, and ghosts buried inside the Ark, laughs are Indy’s weakness. Marion (finally) succumbs to Renee Belloq’s non-stop sexual advances.

Scenario # 8

What Happens: During a respite from Indy’s ancient burial destructions, Marion tends to his wounds.

Hollywood Version: A battered Indy instructs Marion where to kiss him by announcing places on his body that “don’t hurt.” Suddenly, Indy feels better.

Reality: According to Dr. Wesley Aimes, San Francisco ER Resident, “No. Based upon the injuries sustained during his many altercations, I would recommend a course of antibiotics and two weeks of bed rest. In my professional opinion, vicodin is far more effective than kisses for pain relief.”

Scenario # 9

What Happens: In pursuit of the Nazis, the Ark, and (I guess) Marion, Indy drives a truck through a nearby town, running over structures and (townspeople) along the way.

Hollywood Version: The townspeople… love it!  They even hide Indy from the Nazis.

Reality # 1: According to structural engineer Stan Kaniskly, “The damage to the infrastructure of the town would total in the millions. And since they are devoid of modern technological advances and a functional economy, it might take up to three decades to rebuild the town.”

Reality # 2: According to Santa Barbara prosecutor Cynthia Ziles, “This is reckless endangerment and would rack up at least 35 counts of manslaughter. Dr. Jones would be sentenced to 150 years in prison, served consecutively; the wives and daughters of the men he murdered would write ‘[redacted] you’ on their eyelids during visits in which they taunt him.”

Scenario # 10

What Happens: After letting the poor Nazis and fellow archaeologist Renee Belloq die at the hands of ghosts, Indy bravely returns home to cash in on his discovery.

Hollywood Version: The government wisely hides the Ark from Indy and the world. The audience is upset. Why can’t handsome plunderer Indy keep his treasure?

Reality: According to Dean Richard Nathan, Marshall College, “We would deny Dr. Jones tenure for his involvement in this criminal activity.  Frankly, we are all relieved that this terrifyingly powerful Ark will remain buried in a government hanger. This is a happy ending for humanity, not for thieves such as ‘Dr.’ Jones.”

Final Thoughts: Renee Belloq, one of the greatest archaeologists of our time, once wrote, “Archaeology is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind.”  “Dr.” Jones has essentially told him to shut it. 

Despite “Dr.” Jones’ assertions in this manuscript, the reality is that murder is a serious offense that carries with it great consequences, excavations are long-term projects, not simply two-hour commando missions, and finally, although we, as colleagues, may disagree in our professional approaches, we should not murder them simply because of that disagreement.  I suggest rejection for Dr. Jones’ article.



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