University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The Indiana Jones Exhibition

January 18, 2011

Many staff members here are geeking out about the Indiana Jones Exhibition opening in Montreal in April.

Penn Museum will be loaning many of the real artifacts that will be on display in this exhibition. We are all giddy about seeing them in the context of such a classic movie. The Museum is always abuzz whenever Hollywood even winks in the direction of archaeology or anthropology or even museology (Night at the Museum). Plus, sometimes we get free promotional shwag! (I have 3 Mummy Returns t-shirts with Branden Fraser’s face on them, or is it a giant mummy head? I wasn’t really into that movie.)

The whole Indiana Jones phenomenon had an especially profound effect on many of my Penn Museum colleagues. I asked a few of my co-workers to share their Indy reflections and anecdotes. Here’s what they had to say:

Jim Mathieu
Chief of Staff

Q: How did Indiana Jones influence you?
A: When they played the trailer at the beginning of the press conference I got goose bumps.  “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was my favorite movie as a kid.  It was directly responsible for me pursuing a career in archaeology.  I remember taking a “test” in high school to help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  Based on my answers it proposed a career halfway between a historian and a garbage man…voila…archaeologist.

Scott Williams

Q: Why do you like Indiana Jones?
A: Because I love scoundrels and hate Nazis.


When “the Last Crusade” came out, I went to the movie theater on 40th and Locust (long gone) with a bunch of fellow staff from the Museum.  The movie had just opened and the theatre was pretty full.  When Indiana says “This belongs in a Museum”, one whole section of the audience (ours) burst out laughing, cat-calling, and cheering, much to the puzzlement of the rest of the audience.


Elsa and Indy1) I won a Halloween costume contest as Dr. Elsa Schneider from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Chris was Indiana so we were quite the pair. I even made a grail and a grail diary and loved every minute of it. The grail kinda sucked so I threw it out, but the hand drawn copy of the grail diary was a keeper.

2) My cell phone ring is the theme song to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

3) I grew up listening to movie theme music with my dad so I knew the music to all three movies before I even understood what they were about. I remember not liking Marion as a character because I didn’t like her theme music. I’ve since learned better and can enjoy her character for more than just the tune.

4) Quotes from the movies permeate my everyday life. Like the Simpsons, Indy has something so say in every situation that is clever and pithy.

Alex Pezzatti

Indiana Jones was a great movie, though I was already interested in archaeology when I saw it (in 1982).  He combines the thrill of seeking out unknown ancient mysteries with daredevil action and adventure.  What’s there not to like?

According to M- R-, the Indiana Jones character was based in part on some early Museum archaeologists in the Middle East.  He may have meant Leonard Woolley.

  • Clarence Fisher (aka Pennsylvania Jones) of the Penn Museum, with his white horse, pistol, yacht and contacts in high places, was the original.

  • mgleeson

    hi Gavin – We posted a response to this a long time ago, but I just
    noticed that it’s not showing up here. I’m so sorry about that. We have
    13 complete human Egyptian mummies, as well as some mummified body parts
    (or parts of mummies). We also have a lot of animal mummies in the Egyptian collection, including 20 cats, 3 dogs, 9 falcons, 26 ibis, 11 crocodiles, and even a snake! Thanks again for your question.

  • mgleeson

    We have not done C14 dating on any of our animal mummies. We wouldn’t rule it out, but so far, since many of our animal mummies come from known sites and burial contexts, dating them in this way hasn’t been necessary.

  • mgleeson

    hi Peppy. We are just getting started using our own digital x-ray system, so we are learning as well! I can tell you that so far we have x-rayed an ibis mummy and a “corn” mummy. For the ibis, we found that 30kV, 1mA, 6 seconds worked well. For the corn mummy, it needed more energy to penetrate since it is so densely packed, so we used 35kV, 1mA, and 12 seconds. We are finding that the digital system doesn’t require as much radiation to produce good quality images, so the amount of time we expose the plate is much less than you would need with a conventional system. I hope this helps! Look for upcoming posts about radiography of our mummies.

  • mgleeson

    hi Brittany – I don’t know anything about this, so I’ll have to ask one of our Egyptologists. I’ll try to find out for you and post a response soon.

  • E.B. Bartels

    Hello! I am researching animal mummies for an essay I am writing, and I was wondering: how many animal mummies are on display at the Penn Museum right now? Is it possible to see other animal mummies in the collection if they are not on display? Thank you!

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