Hollywood’s Famous Archaeologist Comes to Washington

Artifacts fictional and real make their debut in Washington, D.C. showing.

Not Harrison Ford, but the long lost Ark of the Covenant, Crystal Skull, and other archaeological artifact props from the well-known Indiana Jones films will be making their way this May to the exhibit halls of the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. They promise to be a major attractor for fans of the film series and the Hollywood-famous fictional archaeologist who, for many young people around the world, embodied the inspiration and impetus to at least explore the possibility of becoming real archaeologists themselves.

“Indiana Jones made archaeology cool for an entire generation and influenced countless scientists to go into this field,” commented National Geographic’s vice president of exhibitions Kathryn Keane about the upcoming exhibit.*

But no less fascinating and no less important are the real artifacts and stories that will be on display, including a wide array of objects on loan from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, otherwise known as the Penn Museum—among the top museums of the world when it comes to archaeology and things anthropological. Thus, among the popularly-recognized iconic but fictional artifacts presented by the Lucasfilm Archives from the Jones intrepid adventures will be equally fascinating but genuine artifacts that will tell the story of real archaeology. Objects will include finds from the Royal Cemetery at Ur (ancient Mesopotamia), gold objects from ancient Panama, funerary objects from ancient Egypt, and finds from ancient Peru, to name a few from the Penn Museum. The exhibit will also include photos, videos and content archives from the National Geographic Society’s own collection.

“It was fabulous to be able to draw on the Museum’s vast international collection to help tell this story—the excitement of real archaeological discovery,” said exhibit co-curator Dr. Fredrik Hiebert, an Archaeology Fellow with the National Geographic Society and consulting scholar of the Penn Museum. “We’ve got a great set of objects—they add up to a microcosm of the best of the Penn Museum’s collections.”** Hiebert is a world-renowned archaeologist with extensive field experience in North America, South America and Asia.

Entitled Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology: The Exhibition, the showing will explain the myths associated with famous, fictional artifacts and places, such as those featured in the popular films, but will also elucidate how archaeologists do their real work and make discoveries related to real artifacts and places.


indyjones2aScene from the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, depicting Indiana Jones with excavators at the scene where they discovered the lost Ark of the Covenant. Screenshot of Lucasfilms clip shown in Youtube video about the exhibit.


indyjones4aArk of the Covenant prop used in Lucasfilm Production’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Clip from screenshot in Youtube video about the exhibit.


goldplaque2Real artifact on exhibit: This embossed gold plaque, circa AD 500-900, comes from the Penn Museum Expedition to Sitio Conte, Panama in 1940. Image and text courtesy Penn Museum


cuneiformmapofworld2Also featured at the exhibit: This clay cuneiform tablet, from the site of Nippur in Iraq, 1500-1155 BC, features the first known depiction of a map. Excavated by the Penn Museum Babylonian Expedition. Image and text courtesy Penn Museum


The multi-media exhibit was designed by X3 Productions with input from Hiebert and Dr. Michel Fortin. Fortin specializes in Near Eastern archaeology and has been teaching at Université Laval in Quebec City for almost 30 years, with many years of experience leading excavation teams at sites in the Middle East.

Visitors may tour the exhibit using a multi-media hand-held device, which will provide information, videos and commentaries about the exhibits. As a video ‘companion’, it will also allow young people the option of creating their own ‘interactive quest’ within the exhibit.

“This exhibition is an exciting journey into the fascinating world of archaeology,” said Hiebert. “This is the perfect opportunity to introduce audiences of all ages to this scientific field through the inspiration of these highly popular films.”

Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology: The Exhibition can be seen at the National Geographic Museum from May 14, 2015, to Jan. 3, 2016. Tickets are now on sale at the website, or call (202) 857-7700. For information about the exhibit, visit indianajonestheexhibition.com.


About X3 Productions

X3 Productions consists of three reputed Montreal-based creative companies who have joined forces and combined their extensive expertise in order to offer turnkey project solutions that reflect the challenges faced by museums around the world. Established as pioneers and major players in the field of exhibit design and production for over 50 years, gsmprjct° (gsmprjct.com) is a collective of four integrated teams behind the creation of many exhibitions for a variety of world-class museums. As Canada’s leading cultural organization, L’Équipe Spectra (equipespectra.ca), is best known for its creation of world-class cultural projects reaching an educated clientele. Bleublancrouge (bleublancrouge.ca) has been voted one of Canada’s best creative agencies every year since 2008 by developing local, national and international integrated communications campaigns that have garnered worldwide acclaim. X3 Productions is committed to redefining the modern museum experience by developing and promoting interactive blockbuster touring museum exhibitions. With a focus on creating innovative concepts, gathering unique collections and developing content driven experiences, X3 aims to provide a new kind of museum experience, one that engages, educates and entertains visitors in innovative ways. For more information, visit x3productions.ca.

About Indiana Jones

2011 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Indiana Jones’ first appearance on the silver screen. Since then, audiences around the world have been enraptured by his exploits and adventures. The popular film series – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – has garnered 14 Academy Awards® nominations and won seven Oscars. When the fourth film was released in 2008, it immediately reached the top of the box office as the number one movie in America. The films have become a part of film history themselves, and remain among the most popular films ever made – with record box office and merchandise sales and a strong fan base around the world. Boasting a charismatic hero with wide-spread appeal, the film series lends itself to an unprecedented exhibit opportunity by which museum visitors of all ages can be introduced to the history, tools, findings and principles of archaeology. For more information, visit indianajones.com.

About Lucasfilm Ltd.

Lucasfilm Ltd. is one of the world’s leading film and entertainment companies. Founded by George Lucas in 1971, it is a privately held, fully integrated entertainment company. In addition to its motion-picture and television production operations, the company’s global activities include Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, serving the digital needs of the entertainment industry for visual-effects and audio post-production; LucasArts, a leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software worldwide for video game console systems and PC; Lucas Licensing, which manages the global merchandising activities for Lucasfilm’s entertainment properties; and Lucasfilm Animation, which is currently producing Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a CG-animated half-hour television series produced jointly with the latest addition to the Lucas family, Lucasfilm Singapore. Additionally, Lucas Online creates Internet-based content for Lucasfilm’s entertainment properties and businesses. Lucasfilm’s motion-picture productions include three of the 20 biggest box-office hits of all time and have received 19 Oscars and more than 60 Academy Award nominations. Lucasfilm’s television projects have won 12 Emmy Awards. Lucasfilm Ltd. is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific and educational organizations. Since 1888, National Geographic has shared unforgettable stories and groundbreaking discoveries with each new generation. National Geographic supports critical expeditions and scientific fieldwork, advances geography education, promotes natural and cultural conservation, and inspires audiences through vibrant exhibits and live events. National Geographic is one of the world’s leading organizers of large-scale, travelling exhibitions. Since it launched “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” in 2004, National Geographic has organized two more Egyptian-themed exhibitions, “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” and “Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt.” Other exhibitions National Geographic has organized include the four-city U.S. tour of “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul.” In 2009, National Geographic travelling exhibitions were seen by more than 6 million visitors. For more information, visit nationalgeographic.com.

About the Penn Museum

The Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, located on the Penn campus in Philadelphia) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, Penn Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. The Museum’s collection of nearly one million objects include world-renowned artefacts from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean World, Asia, Africa, Polynesia and the Americas. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, Penn Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind’s collective heritage.


Source: Core article written by Popular Archaeology staff, but quotes and other information adapted and edited from a *press release of the National Geographic Society and a **press release of the Penn Museum.

Cover Photo: Screenshot of clip from Lucasfilm Production’s Raiders of the Lost Ark as seen in Youtube video about the exhibition.


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