Skip to Main Content
Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Indiana Jones, Lara Croft & Ancient Aliens: The Science, Pseudoscience and Science Fiction of Archaeology

Instructor(s): Heather Hurst, Anthropology

In pursuit of the study of the human past, archaeologists use fragmentary maps or ancient legends to find lost civilizations, where they dig up highly valuable treasures, run from booby-trapped tunnels and dodge poisoned darts, right? Indiana Jones and Lara Croft may not be accurate representations of an archaeologist at work, but popular culture images – film, television, video games – are perhaps most responsible for public awareness of archaeology. Distortions of the methods, purpose and results of archaeological research have persisted since the very beginnings of the discipline, with endless examples ranging from poor science to intentional hoaxes. Hollywood images of archaeologists and "fantastic" versions of archaeological discoveries provide fertile ground for assessing the relationship between archaeology and popular culture. Through readings, movies, and media, students will explore themes such as artifact versus loot, science versus pseudoscience, and heritage versus nationalism. In addition, students will make their own discoveries by taking part in an active archaeological dig throughout the semester.


Course Offered: