Indiana Jones: The Antikythera, the Ark, and the Fact and Fiction Behind the Movies

Indiana Jones, the iconic adventurer and archaeologist, has captivated audiences for decades with his daring quests and encounters with legendary artifacts. From the Holy Grail to crystal skulls and the enigmatic Dial of Destiny, the Indiana Jones movies have blended fact and fiction to create thrilling tales of ancient mysteries. In this article, we will explore the real-world origins and the lore behind some of these artifacts, shedding light on the blurred lines between history and imagination.

The Holy Grail

The Grail in Last Crusade is said to be the cup Jesus Christ used at the Last Supper, and into which some of his blood spilled during crucifixion. It first appeared in literature in the 12th century, and came to be connected with Arthurian legends and the real-life, and mysterious, Knights Templar who — like the fictional Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword — served as protectors of the grail.

Although likely falling under the category of pseudo-history, enough people have embarked on quests for the Grail, and countless local legends exist in various countries about it hiding there, to make its existence, like the Ark, seem conceivable. A chapel in Chwarszczany, Western Poland, with its recently discovered hidden tunnels, seems like a pretty strong contender as its resting place. And yes, the facepunch-worthy Nazis did have an interest in finding the grail, specifically occultist Heinrich Himmler and medievalist Otto Rahn.

Crystal Skulls

Say what you will about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), the film’s MacGuffins are real, sort of. There are 13 said to exist around the world, including at the British Museum and Smithsonian Institution, and believers say they originated with Mesoamerican civilizations tens of thousands of years ago. There are stories connecting them to the Aztecs, Atlantis, and ancient aliens, and that they can enhance psychic abilities or have healing properties. But science doesn’t back this up: the ones examined by electron microscope were crafted as recently as the late mid-to-late 1800s, reports National Geographic. Still, there remains lore and fascination with the skulls. Ghostbuster, and paranormal enthusiast, Dan Aykroyd pays homage to them with his Crystal Head Vodka brand.

Interestingly, the most famous crystal skull, the Mitchell-Hedges skull, was at the center of a 2012 lawsuit, which also entangled Lucasfilm. Explorer Frederick “F.A” Mitchell-Hedges and his young daughter Anna claimed to have unearthed their “Skull of Doom” on New Years Day 1924 in Belize (even though it was later revealed he purchased it as a Sotheby’s auction in 1943). Still, the story of the skull’s provenance was enough to warrant Dr. Jaime Awe, director of the Institute of Archeology of Belize, to sue for the return of the skull to the country from the Mitchell-Hedges family. Additionally, because Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s artifact very loosely resembles it, damages were sought against Lucasfilm, The Walt Disney Company, and Paramount Pictures for profiting off the likeness of the skull without permission.

Dial of Destiny

Though you must see the latest Indiana Jones installment to know precisely what the titular Dial of Destiny is, there are a few artifacts connected to the term “Destiny.”

The real-life Stone of Destiny is a symbol of Scotland, with legends placing its origins in Biblical times, and was used for centuries in the coronation of Scottish kings before it was nicked by King Edward I of England in the 13th century. It was stolen from Westminster Abbey by Scottish students in 1950, and returned to England before it was ultimately given back to the Scots in 1996. Though it returned to Westminster, briefly, for the coronation of King Charles III.

The Indiana Jones movies have entertained audiences with their larger-than-life adventures and mythical artifacts. While some of the objects featured in the films have a basis in historical fact, others delve into the realm of legends and speculation. The Holy Grail, crystal skulls, and the Dial of Destiny all possess their own stories and associations, blending history, mythology, and popular culture. Regardless of their factual accuracy, these artifacts continue to capture the imagination of viewers and inspire a sense of wonder about the hidden treasures and enigmatic pasts that may lie within our world. Indiana Jones may be a fictional character, but his stories remind us of the enduring appeal of ancient mysteries and the thrill of the unknown.

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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