Category Archives: Books

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.

The Making of an Indiana Jones…

Beginning sometime near the end of the last century I worked mainly between three major identity crises. I had (still have) a common tendency to find common ground with a character in a movie or book and slip into some sort of anachronistic version of that person in the real world. The funny thing is pieces of each of them have stayed and wedged firmly into the makings of a psyche that is truly unique. After swillowing between the likes of Don Johnson’s Marlboro Man, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, and Elvis high school finally ended and I was able to make a clean slate and move into the more lucrative field of college.

Actually the first go round gave little change to the situation at hand and I had to wait six years to find some kind of direction.  In 2006, however, I began again.  This time I soaked up all that the world of higher education had to offer. In a few years, quite without trying I developed a lasting image on campus, all it took was a fedora. I have always worn some kind of hat, and began a daily wearing of a fedora not long after beginning college for the second time.  Soon after I was invited to begin paleontological field work in the Uinta Basin in Utah.  Working in the desert of America’s southwest, sifting through Eocene dirt for microfossils became the highlight of the year.  I was still into Archaeology though, and took off for a Maya field school in the Orange Walk District of Belize. Hosted by the University of Texas, I learned many things about what it took to be a lifetime academic archaeologist. I also made some of the best friends I have ever had.  This reinforced the nomenclature that had taken hold back home. I was Indiana Jones.

I pondered on this a bit, and with the study of the history of field explorations in the American west for fossils, and further research into Archaeology led me to the conclusion that for as many people that take on the persona of the world famous archaeologist, there are nearly as many people behind the character.  Over the next few chapters here, I will look at some of the more famous, and perhaps infamous versions of the man that has came to be the most famous Archaeologist of all time.  Some of the names will be familiar, some may be new, each have some claim to the “inspiration of the character Indiana Jones.” But the truth resides somewhere out there in the abyss of popular culture, popular perception of exploration, and popular accounts of those same explorations, usually by the explorers running the show.

Let’s look at what we know about Dr. Jones historically, not counting the novels, or the prequel series. Every child born in the 80s should have grown up with the Dr. Jones stories. The Raiders of the Lost Ark is film classic that has gained a cult following without actually being a <shudder> cult film. This happens when movies are just good. Everything is great about this movie, except many professional archaeologist disagree with the methods and adventure going on in the film. And they should, there lives are filled with countless hours of dedicated research, painstakingly publishing findings, and the delicate dance of back-stabbing while avoiding being stabbed in the back. The closer the profession deals with humanities origins, outcomes, arts, evolution, the more cutthroat the game. Either way, great fun, great movie, great hero of the ages.

Number 2. Well, that is what it is. This movie had such promise, great location, great mythology, dark storyline, pretty awesome movie poster, even a comical little asian kid. What could possibly go wrong? Kate Capshaw, that’s what. I have watched countless hours of television and film (years if you do the math) and there are rarely few times I dislike someone in a movie more than her in this film.  I remember thinking as a child that this was an ill placement.  I remember wishing as an adolescence that someone would just kill the bitch in he first few scenes and let Ford and Shortround carry out the adventure on their own. Alas, that did not happen and this poor, poor, length of heat exposed tape remained the least favorite of the trilogy for decades. It was a sure way to decide on friendships: if person in question ever said that the Temple of Doom was their favorite film, you immediately (even subconsciously) removed them from your list of people you ever knew and with little help tried to find an open construction site in which to drop them into a cement mixer.

What could save such an awesome work of cinema from its horrid sequel? Sean Connery, of course. Probably the best all around film to come out of the decade (Ghostbusters are up there in the running, you’ll understand why I vote for Aykroyd later) It had everything the original had, and nothing that the sequel had, and that was a great combination. The only complaint I have about this great ending to a trilogy is how they treated the beloved Sallah. In the original he was a trusted, capable, and noble friend. In this he ends up more like a bumbling sidekick for comic relief. Knights, The Holy Grail, and melting Nazis, what is not to love.

Many, *MANY*, fans will tell you that there were ever only three and they steadfastly refuse to even discuss the fact that there might have been rumours of a fourth installment. The power of this thought process is legendary, look at how the whole world has forgotten the first Hulk movie and the demon-hulk-poodle. But, for the record there was a fourth installment. What was bad about it…aliens, Shia Labeouf, Ox being a mental invalid through most of the film, Connery not coming out of retirement…What was good about it…<chirp, chirp>… There were some good things, it happened in South America, we got another Indiana Jones movie, who Shia Labeouf was, the intricate contraption that housed the ending of the movie, the conquistador mummies, and my personal favorite: “If you untie me I am going to punch you in the face” <untie> *punch.*

The ending of the series has left us again without a hero archeologist. It has also left us with a trilogy boxed set and a loose fourth dvd that we bought to have the whole set even though we never watch 2 and 4. There’s the background on how I see it, and possibly How I came to be. Working backward from me to the movies to the men behind the myth I hope to shed some light for myself and possibly others on what makes an Indiana Jones.

For the record, I still wear Don Johnson’s vests from Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, I still have severely oversized sideburns, I still wear hats, and depending on just how nihilistic I feel upon awakening I may or may not wear my blood-stained smiley face button to work. I was also told I could not dress up as Rick O’Connell from the Mummy movies for halloween because it needed to be “something I did not wear every day.”Regardless of all that has been built upon, it is an undeniable fact that the older I get the more I look like Dan Aykroyd. But, hey, he is helping fund Dr. Phil Currie and team’s dino digs in Canada, so why not. And there was Ghostbusters.  

How do all these equate to an Indiana Jones?

For the Birds Part Two

  Another bird made the theatres recently.  This one may seem a bit more dark compared to the light hearted Dodo/scientist adventures; it is.  So, death by Poe story, I said when it came out that the premise was Saw for smart people.  The movie is more than that though.
Studies reveal that ravens are incredibly intelligent, tool using creatures.
Again, this movie will be overshadowed by comicdom, but it shouldn’t.  The literary connections aside, the movie is as well done a whodunit as I have seen in awhile.  The plot keeps you guessing, and characters are pretty believable.

That’s what the bird says, you say all these other parts.

The characters are pretty well developed, notwithstanding historical inaccuracies, but this is not a documentary.  Cusack captures the arrogance, the poverty, the brilliance, and the addiction of Poe as well as anyone probably could have.  Although the goatee, not sure.

splashed with mud adds insult to injury

There are many who know more about Poe than I do. A well respected literary historian airs his disagreements here.  But for the most part, the Poe that has made his way into popular culture is more Poe than Poe was. Poor Poe.

How many times did I use Poe in one sentence?
Couldn’t find a photo of my favorite scenes.  Poe with his pet raccoon.  I particularly enjoyed this piece of the film, as in addition to Poe being one of my muses, I grew up with a pet raccoon on two separate occasions, and felt a nice warm connection between myself and one of my favorite authors. The fact that he might not have had a pet raccoon does not diminish that feeling.
Back when newspapers mattered

All in all it is a period piece and they are generally always fun.  The music was good, the costumes were great, the dialogue was very good.  Anytime someone calls out a mouth breather is a good time.  Professional historians aside, (as they tend to take themselves entirely too seriously to enjoy a film with) I think The Raven is worth a see. Probably twice.  The second time you will be trying to see if the director or actors give away anything to reveal the killer(s).  If you have read Poe, go see it for the joy(?) of his stories coming alive, plus the added bonus of getting several asides that the general public will miss.  If not, go see if for the mystery.  Don’t take your history from hollywood though. Maybe this will drive you to research the father of horror writing, and stem more than a little pride for an American author trying desperately to make a name for himself when very little of anything coming out go the United States was respected.  You may also find out why copyright laws are such a big issue these days.

Of all the ones I have seen, this is the best movie poster
There are a couple other reasons to go see this thriller.
1.) Luke Evans’ portrayal of the inspector is quite good.

Brillaint performance actually. Though still damnably difficult to run in a top hat.
…and B.) Alice Eve is quite nice to look at.
If you like a fresh look at old cliches and never take historical fiction too seriously, you should enjoy this film. However, if you see it your duty to go through life correcting everything then you will be an annoyance to anyone that takes you to see this film, and perhaps you should be stuffed into a chimney.  You probably read Longfellow too.

For the Birds: Part One

After a dreadfully long absence from the blogging scene, I return with something a bit out of character for the presets of this blog. At least on the surface.  As I have been writing and rewriting my Master’s Thesis, things have been a bit back burner lately.  However in todays riveting episode I will be talking about two movies that ARE NOT the Avengers.  Not that I am knocking the Avengers, I just never got up to the fever (okay, any) pitch to go see it. These two, however, did pique my interest some time ago. Shall we begin? Part I.

Firstly we went to see the latest in stop motion animation by the incomparable Peter Lord Aardman and co.  Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists (or “Band of misfits” as they dumbed it down for the states.*eye-roll*) The adventure is based loosely on the absolutely hilarious book by Gideon Defoe:

There are more as more or less a serial.  They are all literally laugh out loud funny. They are a bit more adult than the “family” movie portrays.  Not in a bad way, just more of the literature jokes are geared toward a high capacity of thought.  The take for the movie is quite good. Without revealing any of the secret nuances of the film I will stick with how it related to this blog: Polly.
She’s the one on the right.

Polly is a Dodo. The last one it seems. Hilarity ensues. To see the Victorian fascination with the extinct is part of the joy that is the movie.  It’s just a fun movie will all the wit and humour that make Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run so enjoyable.

There is also a bit of victorian fun poking going on as well. 
Here we see a young Charles Darwin aboard the Beagle. Baboon Kidneys and all.
 He shares a great interest in Polly, but does not love her the way the crew does.
The Pirate Captain commonly refers to his new friend as Chuck.  For some reason this is funnier than when Peppermint Patty does it to Charlie Brown.  As I chose the UK title more because I like scientists more than misfits, I will say as a historian of science I found the scientific references and underhandedness quite funny. 
Rampant monocle dropping ensued.

Another Americanism that made its way in differed from the trailer.  Don’t go to American theatres looking for the “complete pants” remark.  Instead, we get (and I quote:) “a load of crap.” Still funny when you find out what the reference is to, but I suppose people in the U.S. don’t get underwear jokes.
 Either way, there is a great and gallant crew (in the street sense, yo) always supporting the Pirate Captain. As well as an overly zealous Queen Victoria. The movie is worth going to see and the books are worth more to read. Just use care when reading on the bus or train as boisterous laughter may get you some stares.

Pretty sure they raided Keith Richards closet for the zebra print captain’s jacket.

If nothing I have said will help you fence sitters decide whether or not to go and see Aardman’s latest barrel of fun I will leave you with this small token from the Pirate King. 

BRIAN BLESSED!