Dr. Kevin McGeough’s article Heroes, Mummies & Treasure: Near Eastern Archaeology in the Movies examines the portrayal of Near Eastern archaeology in the movies and addresses the general public’s romantic view of archaeology as an adventurous – and often dangerous – occupation.

He argues that archaeologists can better understand the public’s perception of archaeology and communicate archaeological knowledge more effectively if they confront these inaccurate, romanticised depictions of archaeologists on the big screen rather than ignore them.

Lara Croft, vandalizing archaeological sites since 1996.
Lara Croft, vandalizing archaeological sites since 1996.

McGeough draws from a wide range of sources, including some relatively obscure titles from the 1950s and 60s, the highly popular Indiana Jones and The Mummy films and, of course, our beloved Tomb Raider.

Over the course of his 12-page article “Heroes, Mummies & Treasure: Near Eastern Archaeology in the Movies”, he tackles the inaccuracies surrounding the on-screen organisation of archaeological work, the various portrayals of archaeologists as protagonists, antagonists and secondary characters, the general disregard that fictional archaeologists show for ancient sites and artefacts, the use of “MacGuffins” as plot devices, the popular view of archaeology as a means of accessing “dangerous, but compelling” ancient knowledge, the depiction of gender and sexuality in adventure films, and the perpetuation of Orientalist notions and stereotypes of the Near East and its inhabitants.

The article was originally published in Near Eastern Archaeology, Volume 69, No.3-4 (2006) and can now be found on Dr. McGeough’s website.

Related Articles: