Indiana Jones Origins and inspirations

Indiana Jones

Origins and Inspirations

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Charleston Heston's Costume for Secret of the Incas was the base for ideas of Indy's Costume.

Indiana Jones is modeled after the strong-jawed heroes of the matinée serials and pulp magazines that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg enjoyed in their childhoods (such as the Republic Pictures serials, and the Doc Savage series). Sir H. Rider Haggard's safari guide/big game hunterAllan Quatermain of King Solomon's Mines, who dates back to 1885, is a notable template for Jones. The two friends first discussed the project in Hawaii around the time of the release of the first Star Wars film. Spielberg told Lucas how he wanted his next project to be something fun, like a James Bond film. According to sources, Lucas responded to the effect that he had something "even better," or that he "got that beat."

Two of the possible bases for Indiana Jones are Professor Challenger, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1912 for his novel, The Lost World. Challenger was based on Doyle's physiology professor, Sir William Rutherford, an adventuring academic, albeit a zoologist/anthropologist.

The character was originally named Indiana Smith, after an Alaskan Malamute Lucas owned in the 1970s (Indiana); the name was perhaps in a nod to the 1966 Western film Nevada Smith. Spielberg disliked the name Smith, and Lucas casually suggested Jones as an alternative.

Lucas has said on various occasions that Sean Connery's portrayal of British secret agent James Bond was one of the primary inspirations for Jones, a reason Connery was chosen for the role of Indiana's father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis noted that the inspiration for the series as well as Indiana Jones' outfit was Charlton Heston's Harry Steele in Secret of the Incas (1954) and called Raiders of the Lost Ark "almost a shot for shot" remake of the Heston film, citing that Indiana Jones was "a kinder, gentler Harry Steele": "We did watch this film together as a crew several times, and I always thought it strange that the filmmakers did not credit it later as the inspiration for the series."

Historical Models

Many people are said to be the real-life inspiration of the Indiana Jones character—although none of the following have been confirmed as inspirations by Lucas or Spielberg. There are some suggestions, listed here in alphabetical order by last name:

Ethical issues for archaeology

In general, when asking a member of the public to name an archaeologist, or even something about archaeology, Indiana Jones comes up. Students of archaeology and professionals alike often name Indiana Jones as one of their inspirations, or maybe what interested them in archaeology to begin with, despite some obvious issues with how Dr. Jones practices archaeology. No stranger to criticism when it comes to the practice of archaeology (treasure-hunter, looter, etc.), Indiana Jones, as representative of archaeology and anthropology as a whole, has some deeper, core ethical issues as well. Cultural relativism, succinctly defined as regarding all cultures as equally valid, lies at the core of what archaeologists and anthropologists do. While far from perfect, it is at least something to strive for – the ability to see outside one’s own cultural biases, to be as un-ethnocentric as possible. Indiana Jones doesn't seem to be striving very hard. Relations with indigenous peoples is an important ethical debates in archaeology today, along with issues of ownership, who has the right to interpret the past, and of course, looting.

Indiana Jones begins the first film immediately addressing ethical issues – as in, showing us the wrong way to go about archaeology. He has a side-kick, or perhaps a hired guide, an obvious representative of the indigenous people there. The guide fumbles along, not once asked for advice by Indiana, eventually even attempting to take the artifact for himself. The audience of course sees this as wrong – since Indiana found the artifact, it must be his. In reality, the guide may have held a more substantial claim. Ownership of archaeological sites or materials is notoriously slippery, but the Indiana Jones leads audiences to the incorrect assumption of finders-keepers, and that preservation and understandings lies solely with academics from the West.

The ethical dilemmas of Indiana Jones are still current today, but they also reflect the roots of the archaeological discipline. Archaeology dates back much further, where affluent and enthusiastic collectors kept artifacts to show off to friends, but the discipline itself is rooted in colonialism. "The earliest development of archaeology then is the transformation from a hobby of those economically advantaged enough to pursue it, to a serious and highly regarded academic discipline." Indiana Jones represents the beginnings of that discipline, still very much in its infant stages, and unfortunately leading modern audiences to adopt the ideals taught in the three, now four, films.