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.)

Idaho Spud and other tchotchkes

Many Egyptologists have Egyptian tchotchkes in their office. For some strange reason, family members and friends like to give the Egyptologist in their life those tacky souvenirs and trinkets. Over the years, I too have received such baubles and now some of them decorate my office. (According to some of my co-workers’ kids, my office is the “one with the cool toys.”)

Idaho Spud and other tchotchkes in my office.

Idaho Spud and other tchotchkes in my office.

As you can see, I have a superb Idaho Spud: an Indiana Jones Mr. Potato Head! (When you press on his hat, the Indiana Jones theme song plays! Isn’t that fun?) I also have a Tutankhamun Christmas ornament, a small figurine of the god Amun and a William the Hippo stapler from the Met. I actually bought that one myself… and it’s not a trinket, it’s a stapler! I have others elsewhere in my office (which is also sprinkled with Canadian flags and conference name tags), but these are the coolest tchotchkes on display.

(Yes, there is also a Lego Han Solo and Millennium Falcon (a gift) and a mini Coloseum, which I picked up in Rome last summer.)


Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. Is there something on the dig that scares you?

Here’s a question about the life of an archaeologist that is fitting for Halloween:

Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes.  Is there something on the dig that scares you?

Hmm… this is a little embarrassing to admit: I hate ants. I really, really hate ants. I didn’t as a kid, but somehow I do now. Once, on a dig in Jordan, I dug right through an ant colony with one fell swoop of my hoe and suddenly there were millions of ants crawling everywhere at my feet… I shudder just thinking about it.