Why don’t Hollywood archaeologists ever break a single bone?

This afternoon, I came across a post on LinkedIn by Nigel Hetherington of Past Preservers that mentioned the BBC’s The Conversation radio programme featuring two women archaeologists, one of whom you already know: Egyptologist Salima Ikram. In the two-minute clip of the longer programme about exploring the past, Salima ponders why Hollywood archaeologists don’t ever break a single bone when they fall.

As I listened to Salima describe a major accident she had a couple of years back, I recalled the time on the dig where I took a bad fall and how scary it was to think–even for a split second–that I might have broken my back. (I described the incident on my other blog La Vida Aegyptiaca on Dec 16, 2007. It was the dig season from hell.)

Unlike Hollywood archaeologists in the movies who get back on their feet a tad stunned and with a few scratches, real life archaeologists can get badly hurt while excavating.  It’s one of those things you don’t really think about, but accidents do happen even on a dig (it’s not just tropical illness and bugs and snakes).  And you can’t just call 911 for the paramedics if you’re in the desert.  So really, the only thing we truly have in common with Indiana Jones is the hat…. and the library work!

(You can listen to the whole programme here.)

4 thoughts on “Why don’t Hollywood archaeologists ever break a single bone?

  1. I honestly felt sore just listening to her describe her accident and the long trip back to the hospital. Glad she made a smooth recovery..

    Do you know if there are any statistics on accidents in the field?

    • Hi Kelly, I have heard stories of horrific falls, but I don’t know if there are statistics on accidents on digs. However, I posted a question on the Egyptologists’ Electronic Forum. Perhaps someone knows. If I hear back, I’ll post the answer here. Thanks for reading.

  2. I suspect archaeologists suffer falls and get hurt in the field often. Cultural Resource Management companies in the USA cover up accidents so that their safety records aren’t impacted and their insurance rates don’t go up. The workers comp system in the USA is a joke. Insurance companies issue gag orders on the injured for obvious reasons as well as the practice of patching the injured up rather than fixing them. Many times when archaeologists get injured they are black listed, never working in their beloved fields again. Employers rarely keep their word made at the time of the accident, ie “you and your family will be taken care of”, etc. More times than not the archaeologist is left with the debt of paying for overpriced educations, left with dealing with medical costs insurance refuses to pay for, etc. One becomes something resembling a criminal after getting hurt. For corporate interests its a win win situation, for the archaeologist, it a lose and loss situation.

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