Archaeology of Indiana Jones




Reynolds on horseback

Dr. David West Reynolds at the entrance to the real "Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors" in northern Peru


From the steamy confines of a South American jungle, to the vast wastelands of Tunisian deserts, have the adventure of your life keeping up with our intrepid archaeologist Dr. David West Reynolds!

... what, you were expecting someone else perhaps?

Welcome to Dr. David West Reynolds' The Archaeology of Indiana Jones, a new journey deep into the world of Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels. Through this feature, you will see much more in the films than you ever realized was there. You'll get to see detailed plans of places such as the Tanis Digs and the Raven bar, and zoom in to learn more about the many interesting artifacts in the film. You will journey with Dr. Reynolds to track down original filming locations. And you will discover the extraordinary true history and archaeology that lies behind the cinematic adventures. Nazi archaeology? A flying wing from the Third Reich? Sunbeams moving within Egyptian ruins to mark ancient messages? All this and much more, you will find, is based on reality.

Dr. David West Reynolds' background as a professional archaeologist and special consultant for Lucasfilm has put him in a unique position to pursue this project. Through a grant from the Phaeton Foundation and the support of, Dr. Reynolds will be your guide through "The Archaeology of Indiana Jones."



Why would an archaeologist embark on a project like this? For starters, using Indiana Jones as a passport into some of the most fascinating history and archaeology of all time is in keeping with Phaeton Group’s mission of creative public outreach. But there’s also a dimension of special interest for Indiana Jones fans.

The experience of the films is tremendously enriched when you know what Indy knows, and understand exactly the situations in which he finds himself. I have stood in the narrow passageway within the ancient fortress in South America where the "real" Indy would have run from the boulder, and explored the site at length after a horseback journey through the Andes to get there. When I see Indy reach the mouth of that temple, I can feel in my bones the remoteness of the location and appreciate the mystery that remains even today regarding the enigmatic monuments of the ancient Chachapoyan people. It is this kind of appreciation and special knowledge that I will share in this feature. When you know what Nepal was like in 1936, when you know exactly what a China Clipper flight was like, when you can read the Name of God in the authentic Middle Semitic script that runs around the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra... you become an insider of the movie, and you feel like a part of the adventure rather than merely a spectator.

Reynolds with transit

Dr. Reynolds on an archaeological dig in Egypt

In this project I have tracked down the history of the real Nazi flying wing, I have witnessed a sunbeam move through the stillness of an Egyptian temple according to the ancient design that made it mark one exact spot at a chosen time... I have dug up the remains of the Tanis Digs filming set in Tunisia, and held the original Golden Idol in my hands in the Lucasfilm Archives. The Archaeology of Indiana Jones explores the bizarre but true nature of Nazi pursuits of archaeology and the occult, reveals how to read the hieroglyphs Indy consulted in the Map Room, leads you to the landmark peak filmed for the opening shot of Raiders, and shows you how to find the spot where you can swing into the river on the same rope that Indy used to escape the Hovitos. I have visited Indy's house, sat in his seat on board the China Clipper seen in the film, and also traveled to the site where the real Clippers took off for the Orient in the 1930s. As far as it is humanly possible to immerse oneself in the worlds of the film and the reality behind it, I have done it.

To explore all this, I had to become an archaeologist, historian, and location scout. I had to earn a Ph.D. and get hired by Lucasfilm. I had to learn to read Latin, Greek, several European languages, translate hieroglyphics, and dig in the 120-degree temperatures in Egyptian summer. I got malaria in the jungle and faced border guards pointing AK-47s at me. All you will have to do is click your mouse. How’s that for service?

So get ready for a journey that will be expanded in regular updates here on From my exhaustive round-the-world quest I have my own version of the Grail Diary filled to bursting with notes, sketches, maps, and photos. Here that journal opens for you to read. And the surprising connections I found begin with the very first shot in the film....

reynolds signature