The other day I brought my youngest daughter Melissa to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. I haven’t been there for quite a while and found it extremely fascinating. I have a degree in anthropology, and finished taking a class in archaeology, which made the trip even better. Not many people know it, but archaeology is a sub-field of anthropology.
I’m sorry to say because of Hollywood films like the Indiana Jones series, many people still believe archaeology is the same as tomb robbing and treasure hunting. And, it’s true that many archaeologists in the past were more treasure hunters and antiquarians than authentic scientists. Several of our early archaeologists cared more about the search for burial chambers containing golden objects than the answers for urgent scientific questions.
Even though the authentic science of archaeology can be exciting in its own right, genuine archaeological research is not really the vocation portrayed in Hollywood films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark. Inside the Hollywood movie machine, films like Indiana Jones are usually centered around the discovery of a golden idol — the “Academy Award” — not about the diverse workings of a vanished culture. As Indiana Jones did in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, qualified archaeologists often work for universities, as well as museums. Also, both the federal government and state governments employ many archeologists as expert forensic advisors.
It’s also true — as in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark — locating the lost Holy Ark of the Covenant has truly been one of the noble pursuits of various individuals, including genuine archeologists, biblical scholars — plus, greedy treasure hunters.
For centuries the location of the Ark has been a source of an ongoing debate. It’s considered the most prized treasure of biblical history. More important, it is at the center of a dispute about the question: should archaeology record the rise and fall of culture or study the boundaries between religious myth and valid Biblical history? What’s even stranger, today, German scientists are still looking for the Ark. These scientists feel the Ark was stolen from Jerusalem and built into the altar.
More than a few authentic archaeologists consider the fact that reliable scientists should not be in the profession of myth-chasing. Authentic scientific archaeology is a way to evaluate genuine science vs. phony science and religious myth. That’s why many social scientists and biblical scholars are trying to conduct proper research on religious artifacts.
Unlike what is portrayed in many Hollywood films, authentic archaeology is not traveling around the world having amorous affairs like a romantic adventurer. While Dr. Jones is kissing the girl and fighting the bad guy, authentic archeologists are determining research concepts, developing tactics and establishing a chronological sequence for their dig site.
More to the point, locating the lost Holy Ark of the Covenant is much like proving the authenticity of the famous Shroud of Turin. If these German scientists actually recovered the authentic Ark, it would be impossible to establish scientifically if it was, or wasn’t, the valid vessel for the Ten Commandments. And even if they could confirm it was the legitimate Ark, they still couldn’t prove the existence of the supernatural or God.
These movies are all great fun; but in reality if someone does find the Ark, it will be a great accomplishment. And hopefully, it will help our true understanding of history and the way humans have developed and evolved their religious beliefs.
Kevin McKenna is the Executive Director of IDEAS (Investigative Documentaries Educating American Society), a 501C non-profit corporation. If you have any comments, ideas or need more information on how you can help or contribute, please write to IDEAS: 1015 W. Clark Suite C. Burbank, CA 91506, call him at (818) 5883047 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.