OMANCING THE STONES
Mark A. Hall
Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Scotland, UK
: This article looks at the depiction of archaeology and archaeologists in popular cinema. A
number of key films are discussed to address the article’s main themes of cultural appropriation
and contested ground (encompassing treasure, the public, politics and gender). Archaeology in
film cannot be divorced from the wider cultural contexts in which it operates and, though
portrayals of archaeology and archaeologists are frequently unsatisfactory, a positive conclusion is
attempted which seeks to understand the narrative drive of popular fiction and a long history of
public exclusion from archaeology. Most of the films considered do not warrant labelling as great
works of art, but they are part of a cultural form with perceptions to offer, able to stimulate debate
within a vital framework of cultural practices by which identity – individual and social – is
constructed and evolved.
: cinema, Eurocentrism, film studies, popular culture, treasure
Archaeology is about people; who they were, what their lives were like, .
asks where we have been, where we are going.
Archaeology is the search for facts, not truth. If you want truth, philosophy
class is right down the hall .
.. X never marks the spot.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
This article explores the portrayal of archaeology and archaeologists in popular
film. A detailed discussion of the complexities of popular culture and film is
precluded; suffice it to say that the term popular is here taken as reflecting mass-
consumption, based on active choices by audience members, each bringing their
own knowledge and judgement to bear (following Bourdieu 1984; see also Gramsci
1998; Hall 1998; Jones 1987; Willis 1995). Popular film then is a dialogue, a contest
between commercial producers and viewers, each with their own agenda and
social values, each with their own susceptibility of influence. The focus of the article
is on the archaeological element within popular films but it does recognize that such
films mediate other cultural issues, including sexuality and fantasy (Petrie 1993).
European Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 7(2): 159–176
Copyright © 2004 SAGE Publications (www.sagepublications.com) and
the European Association of Archaeologists (www.e-a-a.org) ISSN 1461–9571 DOI:10.1177/1461957104053713