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from the trenches
Indy Spirit Awards Volume 61 Number 3, May/June 2008
by Eti Bonn-Muller and Eric A. Powell

Ever since the 1981 debut of Raiders of the Lost Ark, there has been rampant speculation about who inspired the character of the risk-taking, snake-averse, "obtainer of rare antiquities." While George Lucas probably didn't have a particular ruggedly handsome professor of archaeology in mind, that hasn't stopped fans from claiming that one real swashbuckling academic is the true Indiana Jones. Below is our shortlist of scholar-adventurers, both past and present, who may never have cracked a whip but still embody the spirit of Dr. Jones.


Nels Nelson (1875-1964)
He pioneered stratigraphy, but wasn't all highbrow. When beset by outlaws in Mongolia, he brandished his glass eye at the brigands, who quickly fled. (Photo courtesy David Hurst Thomas, Division of Anthropology, AMNH)

Sylvanus Morley (1883-1948)
Before making his name at Chichén Itzá, he scoured Central America for German listening posts and clandestine submarine bases during WWI. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Junius Bird (1907-1982)
Surveying early sites in South America by sailboat and in a Model T weren't the only things he did in style. He also looked great in a fedora. (Photo: Courtesy David Hurst Thomas, Division of Anthropology, AMNH)

Frank Hibben (1910-2002)
A big-game hunter, this New Mexico archaeology prof was shot at and chased by troops in China while monitoring atomic tests there for the CIA. (Photo: Courtesy Marilyn Hibben)

Robert Carneiro
Archaeologists revere this ethnographer for his theory on the origin of archaic states, but he also knows a thing or two about shrunken heads. (Photo: Courtesy David Hurst Thomas, Division of Anthropology, AMNH)

Geoff Emberling
A veteran of digs in the Near East, the debonair director of the Oriental Institute Museum now explores remote Nubian sites in the deserts of Sudan. (Photo: Courtesy of The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago)

Constanza Ceruti
Braving 70-mph winds, this high-altitude archaeologist searches for Inca mummies and ceremonial centers on Andean mountaintops. (Photo: by Constanza Ceruti/©2008 National Geographic)

Scotty Moore
There are a lot of TV hosts channeling Jones these days, but Moore is the real deal. His CV includes CRM experience and digs from Siberia to Texas. (Photo: Courtesy Discovery Channel)

Who's next?
Our ideal Indy still keeps ancient artifacts out of the hands of bad guys, but he or she also manages to write up that Well of Souls field report.