Archaeology of Indiana Jones


paramount peak



peak sketch

In the very first shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy pauses at a ridge with an impressive view of a distinctive mountain ahead in the jungle. The prominent peak is a landmark on Indy’s route to his destination, the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors

paramount peak sketch

The opening shot of this pinnacle is a dissolve directly from the Paramount logo, making "Paramount Peak" an in-joke that became an Indiana Jones film tradition.

paramount dissolve



Archaeology isn’t only about blistering desert expeditions. Sometimes the destinations are in paradise. On the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, I searched out filming locations used by Spielberg and his crew on Raiders of the Lost Ark. Diligently combing the entire gorgeous island was one of the best reasons to be an archaeologist I have ever enjoyed.

The filming location for Paramount peak turns out to be a view of Kalalea Mountain, near Anahola on Kaua’i. The view is across a fence from Kuhio highway (Hwy 56). Watch the ridgetop pattern carefully to know how far down the highway you have to go to get the correct original angle, and be a conscientious visitor—be sure to close any gates your cross.

peak location sketch       peak location map



"Paramount Peak" was just a fun touch in Raiders, and was not intended to represent any real mountain. But what if there were a real Indiana Jones in 1936, and Raiders represented a cinematic adaptation of his adventures? What would the real archaeologist have seen? Asking this question will take us into real history and archaeology throughout The Archaeology of Indiana Jones. Reconstructing the path of an individual from the past is a common pursuit in archaeology. If we apply this approach to Indiana Jones, we will find that it will lead us down many remarkable routes. In one of the many striking coincidences I have encountered in this project, I learned that Paramount Peak is, essentially, real.

The Raiders script and novel tell us that Indy is trekking through the land of the Chachapoyans in northern Peru. Within the cloud forests here, called "the eyebrow of the jungle," a distinctive natural tower rises high on a ridge. This pinnacle is Mt. Shubet, one of the highest mountains in the entire region. The peak stands above one of the deepest gorges in Peru, with the Rio Mara–on running through the canyon below. Mt. Shubet stands well over 12,000 feet high, making it the most visible landmark in the area. Adventurers searching for the ruins found throughout the mysterious Vilaya region have long used Mt. Shubet's distinctive pinnacle to orient them on their explorations. Mt. Shubet is without a doubt the peak Indiana Jones passes in the opening shot of Raiders.

But Indy will encounter an even more memorable landmark just ahead in the jungle, in the form of a Chachapoyan demon....

Mt. Shubet sketch      Mt. Shubet photo