A Partly Successful Quest - Archaeology Magazine Archive

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A Partly Successful Quest May 20, 2008
by Zach Zorich

Good segments are compromised in this semi-documentary.


In the program "Indiana Jones the Ultimate Quest," the History Channel capitalizes on the Indiana Jones publicity juggernaut with this mixed bag of scientific fact and unsubstantiated new age religious beliefs. Using the Indiana Jones movies as a jumping off point, the show does a wonderful job of showing how real archaeologists work using state of the art technologies like ground-penetrating radar and satellite imaging to locate and explore ancient sites. The two-hour program also does a great job of drawing attention to the problem of looting and the illegal antiquities market. However the show veers repeatedly into pseudo-science by elevating people like Graham Hancock and some so-called experts in the power of crystal skulls and ancient astronauts to the same level as respected scientists like William Saturno of Boston University and Lawrence Conyers of Denver University. The problems don't stop at casting new-age quackery as legitimate science, the narrator heightens the air of mystery surrounding the crystal skulls by falsely stating that no one knows how the skulls were made. In fact, two purportedly ancient crystal skulls that were examined using light and scanning electron microscopes were shown to have been carved using modern equipment (see "Legends of the Crystal Skulls") proving they are fakes. This could have been an entertaining and informative introduction to the field of archaeology. Instead the program's producers are content to follow a growing trend in nonfiction TV that the facts shouldn't get in the way of titillation, and they have settled for making something less than a documentary

Zach Zorich is an associate editor at ARCHAEOLOGY

© 2008 by the Archaeological Institute of America