Ive always found the media’ s representation of archaeologists quite amusing and appealing. At 15 years of age when i firmly decided i wanted to be an archaeologist and told my family and friends, Indiana Jones came up in conversation. I still remember my brother Luke’s expression when i told him. He asked, ” Do you want to be Indiana Jones “? “Yes, the female version i replied.” What archaeologist doesn’t secretly dream of being Indiana Jones ? I mean that man has it easy on stumbling across relics like one would open a fridge and find milk.
Real life archaeologists have to work much harder than this to make discoveries. They spend far more time on research in the indoors than in the outdoors like Indy. When they do get out it could take years to make a discovery. This is not to say that archaeology is dull , far from it. It gives you adventure to last a lifetime. Through archaeology you venture into some many different cultures and beliefs. Its a vast jigsaw puzzle that you need to find the pieces to put together. Sometimes you will never find the piece as its been lost with time. Gaps remain and its these gaps that make archaeology so appealing, sexy and mysterious. The media plays heavily on this image as it portrays archaeology in these ways. Most reporters writing a story on archaeology will play on these themes to appeal to their readers.
Indiana Jones has influenced the way people perceive archaeology on a global scale. Most people upon hearing the word archaeology associate it with Indiana Jones. He is part of pop culture and helps reporters write their stories. When archaeology makes news i notice that reporters glamorize the story with an overtone of Indy mythology. Age reporter Stephen Cauchi’s story on a second world war bunker dig in Melbourne does this well.
There are some archaeologists very critical of their industry portrayal by the media. In all though, i believe most are happy given it gets their work out there. I mean if you need to put on a bit of an Indy for the media and then receive funding for your work , go for it. I think the accounting profession could do with an Indiana Jones figure for their industry. It would really help their image.
I believe that after Indiana Jones, the Time Team television series has really revolutionized the way people see archaeology. Many people these days think of Time Team when archaeology is mentioned. In the UK, reporters have often interviewed members of Time Team helping to further spread its popularity. Melbourne based archaeologist Jim Wheeler said that the best thing for archaeology in Australia is to have a Time Team Australia. What a great idea but what a pity that currently nothing of the sort exists.