A globe-trotting adventure tracking down the incredible real history behind Hollywood's Raiders of the Lost Ark
Was there really a Nazi flying wing? Did Hitler actually send agents out searching for Biblical relics? Did the ancient Egyptians really build miniature cities, and monuments that worked with sunbeams? The answer to all these questions is "yes," and this is only the beginning....
Back when I had an office with Lucasfilm, Paramount Pictures heard that there was an archaeologist working for George Lucas up at Skywalker Ranch. That was me, and they got in touch. They were considering a promotional campaign, and they told me they wanted me to track down the real history and archaeology behind the Indiana Jones movies. I signed on for what turned out to be an extraordinary assignment.
The project proved so unexpectedly fascinating that it grew and grew in scope until it was taking me all over the world. The quest led from the deserts of Tunisia and the monuments of Egypt to ruins high in the Andes and an obscure government warehouse outside Washington, D.C. I visited the locations where the actors were filmed and also the places where the "real" Indiana Jones was supposed to have been in 1936.
To my astonishment I found that despite its larger-than-life atmosphere, Raiders of the Lost Ark is based almost entirely in authentic history, due to extremely unusual circumstances behind the production. The movie therefore serves as an excellent popular gateway to discussion of a colorful and surprising variety of historical subjects, from the solar mechanics of ancient monuments to the pioneering of trans-pacific air travel by Pan American's China Clippers, and much more.
At this point I would be surprised if any other person in the world has more completely walked in the footsteps of Indiana Jones than have I. Stories of my first-hand experiences and sketches from my journal make this a uniquely personal adventure.
The program features an engaging mix of adventure travelogue, cinematic detective work, and fascinating authentic history. Spiced with humor, the presentation is highly entertaining yet substantial in educational content. The talk assumes only passing familiarity with Indiana Jones, reprising relevant movie details.
Audiences have enjoyed this program at museums, official Lucasfilm Celebration events, conventions, and schools ever since I first completed the project. When I gave this program at DePauw University in December 2018 we had the auditorium nearly full and after the lecture the students kept me for a full hour with their questions, so our Hollywood hero is still going strong. The enduring appeal of Indiana Jones makes this presentation perennially popular.
Oh, and by the way, venues always ask whether I can crack a bullwhip. Would I have omitted such a big part of the Indiana Jones experience? Of course I can crack a bullwhip—if you've got the space.
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