Category Archives: Archaeology

Bonaparte Before the Sphinx

This is a test run for something I want to try for smaller, more frequent posts. These will include new things I find, old things I am reminded of or other interesting bits and bobs of the internet.

They’ll go up on the latest posts first then I’ll move them around to their proper headings as links. I should have been doing this forever. But, you live, you learn. I have a longer post planned on Jean-Léon Gérôme now that I am back into the writing game, but his 1886 painting, also called Oedipus will suffice as a start.

Mummy Dearest

My son recently turned two. He also recently became incredibly interested in all things mummy. This could be from the six-feet-tall Tut sarcophagus bookshelf we have or it could be from one of the shows that we’ve watched. Anyone who has children will tell you that if the like something you get to partake of it over and over again. Luckily, there are a few outlets for mummy content across the shows we’ve been watching. It’s an interesting list if for nothing else than to think about how solidly Egyptology and Mummies’ Curses are engrained into our popular culture. Continue reading Mummy Dearest

The 12+ labors of Ralph B. Shead

For me, History is filled with people and things. I have never really indulged in the movements and theories and isms that seem to infect the past presently. For a historian this is a professional character defect, for me it is what brings history alive and allows us to find our connections to it.  It is likely why I spent so much time learning archaeology and paleontology. I believe it is ultimately what lead me to the history of science so I could talk about all of that at once.

When I first came to OU and was getting settled across campus with the few people I had some connection with I was shown around the Sam Noble Natural History Museum. On the second floor back in the hallway to the VP lab and collections there are these two enormous paintings (13.5 feet long by 3.5 feet high). After taking in the scale and content of these behemoths I immediately looked for the signature. “Ralph B. Shead ’42” and “Ralph B. Shead ’34 (or 39 it is obscured by the frame I believe it is 34).

Continue reading The 12+ labors of Ralph B. Shead

The Road to Comps Part 4: Emergent Specializations-Anthropology/Paleoanthropology

As I continue to look at the professionalization of disciplines in the later 19th century I believe I am beginning to see the historic thread that connects these things starting to match the thread of my personal interests in their modern incarnations. The greatest thing about these readings (and the few before in the last post) is that I have been part of their modern machinations. Aside from working in the Vertebrate Paleo lab (such as it is) at Lamar for most of my undergrad, I spend a summer field season in Belize with the University of Texas following the Maya. Not only did it help me see I was more interested in the history of archaeology as a direction of inquiry (I still follow the latest Central–and some southern-American discoveries) than actually making a career working with those personalities, it has provided me with an already primed canvas to start smearing my own theories onto.

Ancestral Images

Let’s start, conveniently at the beginning. I read Moser’s work back when I was working on a display and reconstruction chapter in my Piltdown thesis. The beauty of this book is the unrolling of a large scroll of images of the past–both physical images, of which there are a handful; and subconscious images of which there are almost innumerable sort, but, like human ancestry can be traced back to their source, if you know where to look.

Stone Age artists at work by Charles Knight
Stone Age artists at work by Charles Knight

The idea of cavemen with clubs and skins are the very essence of understanding humanity’s past. Kids drawings contain this although they can’t always tell you why. The most matter of fact ones will say “because that is the way they were.” They don’t know that, and we don’t know that. If we know anything it is that is wasn’t that way. The first neanderthals were brutes, partly due to the misidentification of pathological disease on the first skeleton, but in reality all led by a host of ideas about the “other.” That is going to come up again and again in this post and hopefully it will makes sense to us both by the time I get to the end.

The caveman situation is not the beginning of that iconography. It isn’t even the middle. Wildmen, hairy and misshapen, come to us from some of the earliest sources translated. Marco Polo’s travel reports gave us the odd communities of mono-pods and the torso-faced. These were other. They weren’t Greeks, they weren’t Roman, and they certainly weren’t civilized. These sorts of otherness qualities run hairily though the Renaissance as well. Even the Bible recorded instances of either people reverting to wild men living off grass, etc. while others as hosts to demons live outside the city away from civilization. Just like the biblical imagery in Rudwick’s analysis of paleontological scenes, these march badly forward through time not necessarily within the waking consciousness of man, but most definitely part of the grey matter. The “modern stone age family” isn’t as much of a caricature as you might think.

The past is a foreign country and the first visitors there fell into the same category as other foreigners. The pasts borders were filled with people so unlike modern humanity that they defied regular classification. Even as those classifications arose in the 20th and more recently the 21st century, the iconography of their existence and lives have remained relatively unchanged, although with the finds of the last few years, Arthur Keith’s necklace-wearing caveman has been vindicated.

There is no better way to tie these two books together than this Far Side cartoon
There is no better way to tie these two books together than this Far Side cartoon

The discoveries that led to the eventual depictions of neanderthal were part of a larger collecting effort. In order to understand the fullest picture of life on earth in the past paleontologist were scouring the entire habitable planet to find specimens of the long dead. That methodology crossed over into other new branches of science. Material culture was one thing, bowls, pots, weapons, could all be employed in arguments of a technologically driven process of evolution, but the questions that needed to be answered was that of race. Namely was man a single specie–not so much as in the variation of mockingbirds or tortoises, but questions of racial hierarchy and classification had to be answered.

The Skull CollectorsAnyone who works with statistics will implore you to increase you n. The large the sample size the more your analysis can smooth out or accommodate oddities. Such was Samuel Morton’s drive in his collection of human skulls. Definitely macabre by any standards and offensive to a great number of tastes people are still arguing over the ideology of Morton and others of his day who went about dealing in body parts of others while never thinking to have their family members boiled, de-fleshed and numbered.

Aside from the count, Morton’s collection stands as a testament to early American scientific methods. Morton’s collection grew as people from across the globe sent him skulls. A trade network of what Fabian calls the “unburied dead” existed for most of the century. In its earliest guise it was grave robbers selling corpses to medical schools, but as the recent turn in tastes was anthropology, that was where the enterprise lay. Since most “civilized” people could afford burial in a protected area, Morton’s collection skews heavily towards the poor and minority groups. This says as much as anything and if you are into that kind of study, definitely add Fabian’s book to your library, it is one of the best on the subject. For my purposes those it reveals the power of specimen-ization. The clips below show nearly the same thing. Darwin in South American bartering for a skull specimen and an outlaw in the American Southwest doing the same. The differences to our eyes are one was a living breathing prehistoric beast and the other was a living breathing human. The hardest point to get through here, beyond the whys and wherewithalls is to many people, especially the collectors and early anthropologists, this distinction simply did not exist.


For Morton, and those who collected for him, the pieces of what once made up individuals became important pieces of a larger puzzle, nameless, if not faceless, data points used to try and answer the same questions about man that were being addressed involving  say, the evolution of the horse. For many of Morton’s collectors, and maybe Morton himself, the remains were no more or less than that of horses. They would see “primitive” burial practices as quaint, and wait for the ceremony to be over before swiping the skull and mailing it back to Pennsylvania. There was always someone willing to help. Even John James Audubon of bird and quadruped fame shipped Morton skulls from the battlefield of San Jacinto in Texas. Spanish-Indian he surmised.

Audubon sends Morton skulls from San Jacinto

With the oddities pouring in, and more than a few bags of skulls coming in from the Pacific Northwest and California it would sound like Morton had many experimental measurements but nothing so much as a standard or a control. The American Civil War provided an abundant opportunity for the skulls of white men to be added to Morton’s collection. In fact this time of windfall was exactly what one of Morton’s collectors pegged as the best opportunity for collecting–death on such a scale that the living have no time, energy, or ability to buried their dead. Embalming and funerary history aside, this is one of the races for the new middle class to have their family members embalmed and returned to the cities. Many of them knew the fate of the unburied dead.

In Morton’s lifetime he saw the end to this type of scientific collecting as the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnography began undertaking government-sponsored large scale collecting expeditions and gone were the days that individuals without government authority would collect skulls. Decades later the move to repatriate remains reduced the collection but because not all of the skulls had claimants it wasn’t completely dismantled. In fact, this further skews the original Morton collection towards the poorest class as many of the native american remains have been claimed and repatriated  while skulls of those from tenements and asylums are still part of the collection at UPENN. Most recently (2013/14) the exhibit Year of Proof: Making and Unmaking Race, displayed some of the remaining skulls inside the craniometers that Morton used to measure the skulls in minute detail. As you can surmise many people were put off by the display.

The Smithsonian and The American Indian

After the war, the USGS was still helping America push West along newly united transcontinental railways. Veterans of the war with more skill or cunning or, (more likely) connections made their way into advanced posts in government positions. John Wesley Powell creates the Bureau of American Ethnology in order to preserve the material culture of the vanishing race of American Indians as well as throw his hat into the debates of race, evolution, progress, and what it means for culture.  The Smithsonian’s relationship with its own past is somewhat of an inconvenience these days. The fact that they are attuned to it is promising as you can see the difference in this version of the book in 1994 after being originally released in 1981 under a quite different title:

Savages and Scientists

It wasn’t necessarily a question of de-humanizing the American Indian in the case of the bureau. The Indian had been a vanishing race since before George Catlin and others went west to preserve what they could of the culture with their art. In the post Civil War West the “vanishing” was less than romantic. Nearly to a man all comers to the “Indian question” offered the same two options (a very victorian matter of fact either/or conundrum) the native people must either assimilate or be exterminated. Either choice meant an end to Indian culture as it was practiced in the 1870s through. This was a blanket justification for the bureau. Here, again, we see the other as specimen. Their culture (and their bodies) were things to be collected, studied, catalogued, and explained. (That explanation will come near the end with the last book I will talk about in this post Iron Cages). Incidentally it was the bureau’s work–methodology, scale, and financing–that kept others from amassing collections like Morton. In this sense, anthrology was pulling from the playbook of geology. In fact, Frederick Max Müller called the Bureau of American Ethnography “intellectual geology.”

Wonderful Things Vol. 1

From the perspective of the anthropologists, why not? They were not only riding the tide of understanding the earth, in deep time and for them more recent, and for linguist, perhaps even real time. The Indians were either developing modern Republican sensibilities or were being killed. Either way the race, culture, and civilization of the American Indian in all its guises was vanishing or had vanished. Egyptomania was gripping the American East coast even as modern civilization’s wonderful things were headed west. A vanished civilization with high art and an only recently deciphered language (Champollion cracked the Rosetta Stone in 1822).  Native American Indian Culture was as ripe for the picking as anything buried in Egyptian sands. There were also mummy unwrapping parties, after all why just dehumanize indigenous remains?

Jungle of Stone

To further accelerate American archaeology you have John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood exploring the lost cities of the Maya. In 1841 they published the first book of American archeology: Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán. To tie the two together Stephens had explored Egypt, and The Holy Land (with a book published in 1837), Greece, Turkey (published in 1838) and other places before setting out for Central American jungles in 1839 the same year that Morton published his Crania Americana. In 1844 Morton published Crania Aegyptiaca; or, Observations on Egyptian ethnography, derived from anatomy, history, and the monuments.  

Egyptian Obelisk in New York's Central Park. Installed February 22, 1881
Egyptian Obelisk in New York’s Central Park. Installed February 22, 1881

That following year Edger Allan Poe published a satirical short story “Some Words with a Mummy” in the American Review: a Whig Journal. Poe had attended a mummy unwrapping ceremony whose star had, through ever increasing exaggeration by the press,  been billed an “Egyptian Princess.” As the unwrapping concluded with evidence that she was intact not a real princess, but not even a real she, Poe introduced the world, through one Doctor Ponnonner, to Allamistakeo. I think this might set precedent for all the amazingly bad puns for things like this. There is even an episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that introduces the ancient Amun Turt-El in 1991.  We will spend much more time with Poe later.

Experts are in an increasing accord that the men in this photograph are Samuel Morton, Joseph Leidy, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Experts are in an increasing accord that the men in this photograph are Samuel Morton, Joseph Leidy, and Edgar Allan Poe.

To tie almost all of this together in a less than neat bow is Takaki’s revised edition of Iron Cages. Here Takaki takes all the individual looks at American white attitudes towards different minorities and plays them out in context of each other, as they happened, in real time, from the Revolution to the Spanish -American War in the text and then as far as Post civil rights in the Epilogue. This is not an exercise to again arrange according to race who was treated the worst by the European Americans. One of the things I notice about that term is that is hardly ever includes the Spanish, Portuguese, or the Italians. The Scots are sometimes differentiated from the English and the Irish are right out. In effect it just works that the British, French, and (broadly) German.

Iron Cages

Following the settlement of the continent Takaki’s whites are pressed to incorporate themselves into staunch republicanism and non Britishness while they also deal with the millstone of slavery and continuing, often hostile contact with Native Americans. For the time period covered the book is relatively short (only 303 pages not including notes and an annotated bibliography) so it jettisons through emancipation, the newly freed black industrial “body” of the new south working for the increasing middle class white “mind.” They south is still separated form the north in terms of working class. The new industrial push sees labor in the north consolidating and unionizing to the dismay of the industrialists. While the argument that the newly freed workforce of the south is still as content in labor to make a dollar as they had been under the yoke of slavery.

The drive west brings more “other.” As the east is cleared by indian removal, and the north east especially has generations removed from Indian contact, new methods of describing the increased threat to modern Republicanism as it unfurled on the American West. With expansion comes new Americans. That is to say Mexicans living in lands that belonged to Mexico until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Now these people were Americans and they had the equivalence of five minutes to start acting like industrial, protestant infused working Republicans. Many ended up working in the copper mines to (as Takaki oft repeats) provide the raw material for the wires that brought electricity to the east. To make matters worse the treaty had only been worked out with the Mexican government and no thought was given to the indigenous tribes whose lands straddled the new borders. This should come as no surprise and in fact is repeated to the world’s great detriment after the end of the Great War as the European powers drew lines across the map and divided the spoils effectively planting the seeds of World War II. That is getting ahead of the story, and we must remember that this is a decent approximation of New York City in the 1840s:

Even jumping around the problems in the Southwest and British Northwest (present day Oregon) there were addition racial tensions as far west as the land went. California had seen an influx of Chinese immigrants arrive with the gold rush. They were classified of themselves and in relation to those existing others in North America. To paraphrase some of Takaki’s sources, the Chinese weren’t as brutish as the blacks, nor as lazy as the Indians. Takaki works in the alignment the Japanese had with Mexican workers in order to strike for better wages, only to not be able to register their union because the state wanted them to agree to a No Japanese membership (presumable knowing that on their own they would have less bargaining power).

Eventually the Chinese make it to the East Coast, to some shock and horror as they are brought in to break strikes, just as the “blacks of the New South” had been after the war. I can’t confirm it with hard dates, but one gets the idea that around this time is when C.H. Woolston wrote the words to Jesus Loves the Little Children as it, in its original incantation includes “red and yellow, black and white” children. Woolston was born in 1856 and lived exclusively in New Jersey and Philadelphia after 1880 (if is to be believed).


The book would be great use in any course on American History in the 19th century for no other reason than the great breadth of scholarship that it contains. For me, the most interesting parts is the inclusion of contemporary literature. Takaki utilizes contemporary literary sources for enormous impact by bringing books like Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court out of their quaint classic-ness and into the realm of political and social commentary that it was written as. This example in particular showing the Yankee’s classification of the medieval British as “indian-like” “barbarous” and “savage.” And that is ignoring all the violence.

The ending, I think, is the best part of the book. Not for how it ties in Takaki’s thesis on race in American in the longue durée, but for how he uses Melville’s work as a mirror to modern society. I have been a fan of Melville’s works for years. Not just Moby Dick, but the more obscure Bartleby, the Scrivener, and Redburn. These all show up in Takaki’s conclusion, which should be no surprise given the number of times Takaki uses the word “monomaniac,” it is second only to the phrase “iron cages.” Melville, like Poe and Twain, was well aware of the position of American republicanism, industrial might, and moral ambiguity. To see the Pequod as metaphor for an industrial complex, with her crew a numb mindles body, even aware of perpetuating their own demise they don’t overthrow the captain. Ahab, the embodiment of all the industrial might, civilization, and even technology–one forgets his wish to be a remade–manufactured–man, as his wooden leg serves him better than flesh. Ahab also studies all the maps, currents, tides, winds &c in order to utilize any and all scientific means available in order to destroy the whale.

By the time they catch up to the whale they are in Japanese waters and Fedallah is "Ahab's shadow"
By the time they catch up to the whale they are in Japanese waters and Fedallah is “Ahab’s shadow”

I think, for me, the power in those last pieces of comparative literature comes from work I did over 14 years ago. In my Comp II course I wrote a comparative literature paper comparing Moby Dick to the Bible. It is one of the few things I no longer have a copy of, and it pains me sorely as I was proud of the paper for not only the exemplary grade, but for what I learned while writing it.  Holding on to that sense that Moby Dick was metaphor for the Bible and now (Takaki’s first edition was published in 1979) seeing that it can also serve as metaphor for the captains (ahem) of industry and what Catlin called the “splendid juggernaut of civilization” leads me to take another step back and, like Euclid (and later Lincoln) note that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. In this sense removing Moby Dick the Bible becomes a metaphor for American Production (and vice versa). This is the entire tenant that deist, like Jefferson, and Freemasons, like Washington, are working with by working biblically, but not religiously. The Bible for them, was treated any other way an ancient text was, this is why Jefferson had no qualms about cutting it to pieces and reordering it in his own fashion for his own purposes.

If you have been following along you will notice paths are starting to cross and the centrifugal force is increasing as it was the Bureau, and The U.S. Ex. Ex (Wilkes Expedition) that brought ends to Morton’s style of collecting, that is ye olde gentleman drawing room scientists that I sent out of vogue with my Piltdown work. Egypt influences American practices in the fields out west, Poe, Twain, and Melville provide harsh realities and Whitman a foil to modern problems with optimism, especially where race is concerned. There will be more about them in future posts but for now, what is the entire take home for all the readings of other? Why is the “other” so important with regards to American Republicanism? It will sound like an oversimplification, but in the case of the evidence above, the entire idea of what is is to be American is defined by what it is not. That is to say, it is not red, yellow, black or brown. In some senses, it is not merely white, as it is not British or French. Without the others Americans, as they exist in the 19th century could not be. The fact that there are many others, and a drive for recognition on the scientific stage set mainly in Europe, required cataloging and maintaining a hierarchy of others, races, and progress. That they were able to align each of them so readily, so quickly, and so firmly as for them to outlast that need requires further study from a multitude of fields. But first, it requires facing many inconvenient truths.

Prehistory and Paleolithic Pop Culture

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Image Source:

Turns out Hugh Hudson has a new film out that focuses on the discovery of the prehistoric cave paintings in Altamira. If you aren’t familiar with the discovery, the Cliff Notes version is an 8 year old girl named Maria led her father Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola to a cave which held amazing paleolithic paintings of bison among other wonders; scientific debates ensue.

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Image Source: Screen capture from Mark Knopfler Making of Altamira Soundtrack video on youtube

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Image Source: Screen capture from Mark Knopfler Making of Altamira Soundtrack video on youtube

The end of the 19th century was rife with debates on man’s place in nature as well as the entire story of mankind in general. The established French view was that prehistoric humans were incapable of such higher forms of thought required to create such things. Arguments about the past and the professional nature of the scientists and divided disciples were heated, marked, and many times personal. Paleoanthropology and other disciplines as we know them were in their infancies fetal stages and battle for the authority to pontificate on humanity’s past was as much the prize as finding answers to the questions they were asking.

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Image Source: Screen capture from Mark Knopfler Making of Altamira Soundtrack video on youtube

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Image Source: Screen capture from Mark Knopfler Making of Altamira Soundtrack video on youtube

Having done a fair amount of research on the Piltdown Affair and its context within the debates that came to a head because of find like Altamira, I am especially intrigued. Adding to that is the fact that like so many other important discoveries in this period it was made by an amateur. That is to say it was reported by an amateur since it was originally discovered by a child.

Drawing of Altamira cave originally from grotte d’Altamira, Espagne. Relevé du plafond aux polychromes publié par M. Sanz de Sautuola en 1880 (d’après Cartailhac, 1902) hosted on Wikimedia Commons

The movie itself looks wonderful since it will have the debates and forces of will involved (including the Church). It also included the wonder that fills Maria as the bison from the cave come alive in her dreams and become a part of her.

Bison in the reproduction museum in Altamira
Bison in the reproduction museum in Altamira

As with most things in life I didn’t get to this from any direct route. I actually first heard of this film through a trailer for its soundtrack. As bizarre as soundtrack trailers sound the bits and pieces around it are where I can glean more of the story.

Mark Knopfler and Evelyn Glennie worked together to create the score for the film and it sounds incredible. It was on Mark’s official Facebook page that I first say the trailer to the soundtrack. Complete with the reimagined stylized version of the famous bison on the front.

The bison form Altamira are iconic and you may recognize them from the plethora of Bisonte cigarette ads/packs that are everywhere. (I say everywhere, that may only be the case if you are as interested in Spain as I am).  If not everywhere then at least on which is a more useful website than you may think, especially for someone who studies visual culture.

Bisonte Cigarrettes, From
Bisonte Cigarrettes, From

Getting to the heart of the film is difficult since all the available trailers are in Spanish since it was released there at the first of this month (April 2016). This isn’t because the film is in Spanish, but because of locality (I guess). So the trailers are dubbed into Spanish which just strikes me as odd, even if I am appreciative of the fact that was produced in English.

There are a few English clips that are part of the making of the soundtrack video below where I grabbed some of the above photos. As far as the cave itself goes, it remains closed to visitors since the damage it sustained from visitor’s breathing in the 1960s. The museum close by has a full replica included some sculptures of human faces that you couldn’t get to in the cave itself.  There are also reproductions in Madrid, Germany, and most recently Japan.  The Caves were up for reopening to the public a few years ago, but in an effort to preserve the site the decision was made to keep them closed. looking at a fake trope was still contentious in 2014.

The Cave was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 and they have a short video on it as well. Until it gets wider release this will have to suffice to piece together what is going on.


Update: Aug. 3, 2016 Full length English trailer finally hits youtube.


The Greatest Adventurer of All Time


Now, I would be completely remiss if I did not include the following man of action on the list. Not all of the men behind the movie actually lived, you see. H. Rider Haggard’s pen brought to life the greatest man of adventure to ever grace a page: Allan Quatermain.  I have a complete collection of all of Haggard’s work, and I love them all, but if you are scrapped for time you may just want to devour King Solomon’s Mines, and She. Fair warning, however, you may decide to read them all.  Quatermain came on the scene in 1855 searching for King Solomon’s Mines. The book, by the same title, is commonly considered the first of the “lost world” genre of literature.  Haggard, being child 8 of 10, was sent by his father to what is now South Africa to take an unpaid assistant to the secretary for the Governor of Natal.  This was not an uncommon practice for families in England. Since only the eldest child would be the inheritor, the remaining siblings were left to their own devices, usually in one of England’s colonies. His time is Africa not only influenced his writing, but left a cause that he would champion for for many years. His work in agriculture reform is mostly overshadowed by his life as a novelist, but he worked throughout Britain’s colonies and dominions attempting to change archaic land use practices and make colonial (and sometimes native) farming, ranching, etc. more profitable.

The downside to such popularity of a character that has fallen out of copywright is that he can be used in any way anyone with a camera and an idea see fit. The latest Allan Quatermain and the Temple of the Skulls, is, well, it is.  There have been popular portrayals of Quatermain, some better, some worse, some story lines have been switched, twisted, or created to work the character in.
Hal Lawrence first played Allan Quatermain in the 1919 feature by the same name. Quatermain made the screen again in 1937 portrayed by Cedric Hardwicke.  Stewart Grander in 1950 and John Colicos in 1979 searched for King solomon’s Mines and King Solomon’s Treasure, respectively. In 1985 and 1986 Richard
Chamberlain offered an 80s style rebirth to the character. There was a television movie in ’86 which starred Arthur Dignam. Quatermain retired back to the books until 2004 when Sean Connery brought the character back to life in an extremely loosely based rendition of Alan Moore’s Graphic Novel The League OF Extraordinary Gentlemen. 

I liked the movie based solely on this character, but seeing all the major players in all the literature I read was very exciting, only to have it spoiled by Tom Sawyer showing up. I heard that he was introduced to the film so Americans would watch it. I am not sure how tre that is, but given what is popular in theatres these days, I am not surprised.

The best movie rendition of the book, although many scenes were simply made up, was the 2004 made for tv versions of King Solomon’s Mines.  Patrick Swayze played the lead in one of his last roles before his death.  The cast of characters generally fit the feel of the stories, and Allan’s aging angst.  The Temple of the Skulls is four years old now and I just found it in a 99 cent rack at the video store. I looked it up online and was not impressed, now I may change my mind when I actually get time and desire to watch it, but as it stands, not so much.

I will end it saying that I too put my foot in his boots.  I was Allan Quatermain one year for Halloween and it was great fun. More so that the party lasted late into the evening and I did not have enough time to remove all the white/grey from my beard before going to work the following morning.  If you haven’t read Haggard’s work, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. The movies are fun, but leave a lot to be desired.  Following the stories and the number of times this book has been required reding in boy’s schools, a nightly reading with your son would most likely be an enjoyable memory for you and him.  You should read it to your daughter as well, if only to make her the coolest girl in jr. high and high school in the future. For that matter, many books have used different takes on the story, but one of my favorites is The Medusa Stone is written by Jack Dubrul. Not as much to do with an all out search for the mines as many other stories, the mines are more a character in the book, than a mere location.

Haggard did not pull Quatermain out of the ethereal. Allan Quartermain was firmly based on a living individual who lived a life quite unpralleled by the rest of us mortals. I suppose that makes him Indiana Jones’ Grandfather, but having this man in your family tree would explain a few things. I will explain more about this man soon, his name was Frederick Courtney Selous.

John Pendlebury Man at Knossos

Rounding out the final four position for the Indian Jones question is a British archaeologist by the name of John Pendlebury. Born in London in 1904, John Pendlebury had blinded himself in one eye by age eight, received scholarships for Pembroke and eventually competed internationally as a high jumper. Pendlebury made is mark in the world in Greek archaeology.  The climate in the Mediterranean allowed for Pendlebury to work in both Greece and Egypt in a single field season.  Crete became a second home to him and he worked closely with native Cretans to understand the history of the island.  He was one of the first to look at local legend, folklore and stories to ascertain more about the physical history of a place.  Shepherds would show him to places that they had known about for generations and Pendlebury would soon be digging there. Some people believe this was taking advantage of the locals for self aggrandizement, but that seems to sell the locals a but short.  This was the late 1920s and early 30s, the world worked differently than it does today.

Similar to Sylvanus Morley, John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury was called to use his expertise to the good of his country during wartime.  His knowledge of Crete and surrounding areas, his fluency with the language, and innumerable friends (on both sides of legality) led him to work as one of the top British Intelligence Agents in Greece.  His closeness with the local gentry may have also led to his unfortunate death. When the Germans invaded mainland Greece Pendlebury and crew were in Heraklion.  As the fighting progressed Pendlebury was shot in the chest. The wound was not fatal and he was carried inside a small cottage to rest. It is reported that a German doctor treated Pendlebury, dressed his wounds, and gave him some sort of an injection. He was given a clean Greek shirt to replace his bloodstained uniform, and when fresh German paratroopers arrived they found a local wounded rebel lying in a cottage bed. Pendlebury had lost his service discs and could not prove he was in fact a British soldier. He was dragged outside, placed against the wall of the cottage and summarily executed; killed in the Battle of Crete, his adopted home, fighting for his adoptive countrymen.

There are may passing mentions of John Pendlebury and the Battle of Crete, a chapter here, or a brief passage there. There are several books that Pendlebury wrote on Bronze Age Greece, Knossos, and other areas he worked. None ever really tied together the story of the man. Thankfully in 2007 Imogen Grunden published The Rash Adventurer: The Life of John Pendlebury. The book is a fairly substantial work of research that lays to rest a few myths and answers many questions about Pendlebury. The author, however, does not offer any input on the famous last words of Pendlebury as he was standing at the cottage wall. A common legend among followers and some contemporaries of Pendlebury maintain that he told the Germans, in no uncertain terms, to be fruitful and multiply…with themselves. But, as with all good stories, this one seems impossible to substantiate.

Other more entertaining stories come to light as well, such as how the Germans believed he was behind everything going against them in Crete, and if he died all of Greece would fall under German control.  How supposedly Hitler wanted his glass eye as proof of his death, and that the German soldiers exhumed his grave to make sure he was dead.  These were brought back to light by an article posted here by the UK Mail online (take it for what you will, I nicked the photo). Either way, the legends seem fitting for someone deemed “The Cretan Lawrence.”

Sylvanus Morley…Undercurrents

Dealing with the most famous of the two source pre Indiana Jones Joneses has not left is without other contenders.  I am sure there are even more than managed to make my list. But these are the ones I am familiar with, and can give the best account of, or advice for reading about.  The third individual on our quest to find the source was different from his two predecessors by one chief enterprise: he was actually a trained archaeologist. Sylvanus Morley was, in fact, a Mayanist. He studied at length in Latin American and published several books, and many papers on the Mayan iconography among other things.  He also published his diaries, a huge effort of 39 volumes running the gamut of his active years (1905-1947) trying to unravel the mysteries of the Maya of Mexico and Central America.  Little is known or discussed about Dr. Morley outside of individuals who actually study the Maya presently. In fact, there are a few who do not know the history of their own field, save some disdain, or unkind words for their predecessors. But all that changed (or has it?) in 2009 when Charles Harris and Louis Sadler published The Archaeologist was a Spy: Sylvanus G. Morley and the Office of Naval Intelligence.  Aside from being one of the books that helped solidify my desire to study the history of science (namely the people at the forefront and/or the births of their respected fields), it revealed to me that many people who work in fields today have no idea where their intellectual infrastructure comes from. Others, can specifically name a mentor, or a grandmentor (that would be their mentor’s mentor for you folks playing along at home) but most cannot trace influence back more than a few academic generations.

         Of course in that count we can always save those poor bedeviled people who hate all the squandered treasures, pillage, plunder and general disdain for local culture. They can always point out who opened a tomb or pyramid first and how unethically they did it. Aside from being generally correct, their self assurance that they are doing it better is quite irritating at times. One must always remember that the archaeologist hipster is a very, VERY annoying conversation mate. But, back to Vay as his friends called him. The indigenous people that he worked with in Mexico and Central America knew him as Sylvano, or Doctor. (Good heavens, could Morley have been the inspiration for Doctor Who as well as Indiana Jones?–the cosmos could not stand it.) The brilliant young archaeologist was called upon by his government, during wartime, to carry out surveillance for the war effort.  He had access to areas that were unmapped and unknown to American military leaders. So, taking his time and efforts Morley folded spy work into his day job of archaeology. His main job was to map the coastline looking for German ports, and deciding whether any coves, cayes, or similar areas could harbor a secret German U-boat facility. There was, he concluded, neither. Problems did arise when he and his chosen team of other archaeologist, each of whom held a speciality within certain geographic areas,  were accused of spying. They all fervently denied such allegations, and went on about their work, both archaeological and governmentally sanctioned. Morley oversaw the Carnegie Institutions Department of Anthropology’s first project. The rebuilding, renovation, and explorations of Chichen Itza.  The department was created in 1912 and accepted Morley’s proposal to work at the site. Tensions from the Mexican Revolution slowed progress, and the First World War postponed it further.  Morley’s work on the Yucatan Peninsula did not begin until the 1923-24 field season.

Sylvanus Morley should be remembered for his work at Chichen Itza, for his early papers on Maya hieroglyphs, and his years at the Carnegie Institution. Instead thanks to Franz Boas, who is undeniably is “the father of anthropology” as he is called, Morley and his team were “exposed” for the spies they were. Boas even said that people like that “prostituted science.” All accolades aside, Boas seems to have a perpetual bur in his saddle. Having recently been passed over for the directorship of the field museum Boas slight was especially raw. To add insult to injury the man hired by the Field Museum was W. H. Holmes, of whom Morley was protege. Perhaps that was part of the bouquet of feathers that never left Boas’ ass. Regardless, his “look what they did” campaign backfired.  Holmes wrote letters complaining of Boas “Hun regime” and “Prussian control of anthropology.” The letters, paired with American anti-German sentiment (probably anti-Jewish sentiment as well since that always seems to fall into play somewhere), led to the AAA censuring Boas for his tirade. Boas may have genuinely felt that the prostitution of science by spying put anthropologist working everywhere at risk of suspicion, the official censure letter stated that his exposing or Morley did just that.

      I am of the opinion that it Boas did more harm than good at that point.  Boas censure was not rescinded until 2005 when the world stepped out into it’s let’s all be friends attitude and sold its backbone down the river in order to make as many people happy (read rich and prominent) as they can. I think the rescind should be rescinded and that every time Boas is mentioned, he should be called in all his facilities and mention should be made of the wonder that a man could have such a long and successful life with so feathers of conceit up his ass. It is little wonder he died of a stroke. Boas did much good for the fight against racism and pseudoscience in the field, but on this particular issue he shut his hand in the door.  Either way the latest thing about Morley to hit press was about his “spy ring.” (segue: There is another instance in science were accusation led to an international issue, Don Johanson of

Franz Boas
(So you know what he looks like)

Lucy fame alerted authorites that a rival scientist was in fact spying for the U. S.. The latter and his team of grad students were escorted from the country unceremoniously (at gunpoint.) There will be a full post on Jon Kalb’s Adventures in the Bone Trade later.) Concluding a third contender for the mark of Indiana Jones’ outline, Sylvanus Morley may have been more a retro inspiration. The fourth movie revealed Jonesy had worked as a spy during World War II, maybe that’s Morley maybe not. (Maybe that makes Oxley W. H. Holmes?)  Either way, Morley and his work should be known more widely than those that currently study the Maya.

Hiram Bingham, Door No. 2

Following up on the heels of RCA, another
famous explorer-archaeologist (treasure hunter *gasp*) is Hiram Bingham III. (there was at least a IV, but I am not sure what number the family is up to now) Bingham was born in Honolulu, Hawaii quite some years before those nice American missionaries displaced the the Hawaiian Queen.  Bingham makes the list for many of the same reasons that Andrews did: for example. he wore a hat. He also tromped about South America in field gear.

      On a more serious note, while working at Yale University Bingham rediscovered the lost mythical city of Machu Picchu. Rumor has it that the team was about to give up when a young Andean lad met one of Bingham’s men at a cantina/saloon/coffeeshop and said he knew of a trail that led to a lost city. If he knew the trail I am not sure why exactly the city was still “lost” but for the sake of argument it was lost to the white man. I suppose Pizarro saw it and after all was forgotten it became “lost” again. Anyway, Bingham’s contribution to Dr. Jones may lie in his job at Yale: lecturer of South American History. In fact, Bingham was never trained in Archaeology. Another facet of character development could be grandfathered by the number of folks who came forward after Bingham (and the National Geographic Society) announced the discovery of Machu Picchu.  A British Missionary, Thomas and a German engineer, J. M. Hassel came forward claiming to have seen the city first. No one really trusts engineers, but would a missionary lie? Bingham was the son of missionaries himself. That would have been a great anthropological battle going on in newspapers had Bingham and Payne parlayed fisticuffs in text.

     Recent developments had discovered that another German, Augusto Berns purchased land opposite Machu Picchu in the 1860s and initiated various schemes to raise money in order to pillage his neighbor. There is a 2008 write up on in it the Independent (found here) discussing Berns, plunder, governmental permission, and an 1874 map showing the location of the “lost” city. But, the chinese have a 600 year old map that shows Antarctica and no one believes them, so there you go. So, mainly known as a teacher and discoverer of a “lost” Incan city, turned his hands to politics and served as a Republican U.S. Senator from Connecticut, 69th Governor and 58th Lieutenant Governor of the same. Bingham died in 1956 at age 80, proving that there may possibly be a few more Indiana Jones movies in store. (Indiana Jones and the Sacred Filibuster?)

Most of the books about the whole ordeal are written by Bingham or his men. Many people find these self-serving, and they probably are, but they were there, they wrote it down, you didn’t, so take it for what its worth. When it comes to history know your sources, sometimes all you have to work with is one or two sources. They may not contain 100% truths but sometimes you have to go with what you have. Throw it out there and get people talking about it. I mean, when was the last time you heard Hiram Bingham’s name brought up in conversation. (not counting conversations with me) The Inca Rebellion, Pizarro, or even 1911 probably only creak through the floorboards of history in survey courses, or worse, some video game.

         For a couple of nice reads to get you in the feel for Dr. Bingham (he had a PhD from Harvard to go along with degrees from Yale and UC Berkley.) try Lost City of the Incas authored by Bingham himself or Explorer of Machu Picchu by his son Alfred. Al, incidentally was also a Connecticut senator, an Army Civil Affairs Officer during World War II, and a practicing lawyer whose last book The Tiffany Fortune and Other Chronicles of a Connecticut Family was published in 1996, the year he turned 81. If you ever get out to the D. C. area, you can stop by and pay your respects to Bingham, he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Roy Chapman Andrews

         Roy Andrews may be the most popular (and likely) candidate for the inspiration behind Indian Jones. It is had to argue with the look, the hat, the field gear, the gun. But, one must remember that mot all field gear looks that way, and in general, so does field gear. Also, the time periods are pretty similar and toting a gun across the globe was less of a hassle then. Hopefully I will get to expand on Andrews a bit later after re editing a paper I wrote on him, but for now a short sweet introduction to get all the players on the board.

        Not much is known about it life before he graduated from college in Benoit, Wisconsin and became a professional explorer and he took great pains to control his image once he was. He wrote many books about his adventures and even some for children. He was, without a doubt the world’s most famous explorer in the 1920s. Where they difference comes is that he was a paleontologist not an archaeologist. Point of fact, he really wasn’t a trained paleontologist either. But he traveled to far off lands and discovered things, and just as importantly, he wrote about them. He was also a noted man to publicized the new trends and products. He always had a kind word for Dodge vehicles. Dodge was also a large financier of his expeditions.


        He had a brief pre-Dino life which involved whaling for the American Museum, but he is really known for finding the first dinosaur eggs in Mongolia. He really wasn’t out dinoing then either. The scientists at the American Museum were convinced that the earliest ancestors of man would be found in the far east. (interestingly enough, some modern findings are suggesting they may not have been as wrong as the Leakey’s and Don Johanson had hoped)

So introducing the first of the many facets that would make their way into spielberg’s hero: Roy Chapman Andrews.

       For full effect you can read the plethora of books written by Andrews, which if you are intested in him, you should. For a one hit wonder encompassing his most popular expedition you can read Dragon Hunter by Charles Gallenkamp.