Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indy Lives

In which we're still a sucker for this kind of thing
OK. I admit it, I'm a nerd (as if you didn't already know).

When I was a kid I soaked up Raiders of the Lost Ark like a sponge. Even the corny, Old Testament God-to-the-rescue ending couldn't ruin it for me. I wanted to become an archaeologist, even though at the back of my teenage mind I knew that it probably wouldn't involve a whole lot of tomb raiding and Nazi fighting.

My dad and I even signed up for an archaeology class where we were supposed to dig up and catalog broken pottery and rusty doorknobs at a historic home in Woodland, California. The class was canceled due to lack of interest before I could discover just how dull cataloging pottery shards could be, however.

Still, I harbored the fantasy for years, until one day a real archaeologist came to our school and... talked me out of it, telling us what a bore it was to fight for funding all the time. Yikes. Talk about a wet blanket.

But the romance of adventure and discovery and treasure still holds its allure. I'm still inspired by the likes of Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, T.E.Lawrence (he of Arabia who was also an antiquarian), Ginger and Dana Lamb and Gene Savoy. Although my life in the last 20 years has been filled with considerable travel, it has not quite been so adventuresome. It's easier from an armchair.

So I look forward to the new Indy movie with anticipation.

Last week I came across an interesting piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. Evidently, the crystal skull, for which the new Indy movie is entitled, is no made-up Hollywood myth. According to legend there are many Maya crystal skulls hidden here and there, and dedicated skull seekers still hunt for them. Says the article:

Some believe the skulls can emit and focus light, project visions and even influence terrestrial forces. Today, these beliefs persist in the jungles of southern Mexico among the Lacandon, the last unassimilated Mayas, some of whom still worship the skulls.

In the shadow of the Palenque ruins, Lacandon priest K'in Garcia fans copal incense and holds a heavy crystal skull above his head during ceremonies for Hacha'kyum, the Mayan god of creation.

Garcia, son of the Lancandon's most respected elder, Chan Kin, believes the skull has special powers, including the ability to stave off sickness and deforestation in the rain forest where the last Lacandon still live.

"When I am alone at night, at about 2 a.m., it starts to glow, it emits light and it stays like that for about a minute," said Garcia.

Creepy fun, that. Of course, as the article notes, no life-size crystal skull has ever been found at a genuine archaeological dig at a Mayan temple (though many small ones have been) and most of the large skulls known are probably fakes.

But why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

Laments veteran skull hunter, Joshua "Illinois" Shapiro: "I was wearing the Indiana Jones hat for a very long time... far before they ever thought about putting a crystal skull in an Indiana Jones movie."

Don't you hate it when Hollywood finally catches up to you and steals your schtick?


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