Best Approximation of the Final Scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark | Best of Chicago 2013 | Arts & Culture | Chicago Reader

Best Approximation of the Final Scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Basement of the Oriental Institute

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It's unclear whether any of the early field researchers at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute were the inspiration for Indiana Jones. Archival photos show that they traveled widely in the Middle East and Asia and wore lots of khaki and broad-brimmed hats. But it's hard to tell whether anyone carried a bullwhip, and if a U. of C. prof ever got into a fistfight with Nazis on top of a moving train, we'd probably have heard about it—think of what that sort of thing could do for a college's image! At the very least, it's likely many of them had occasion to utter some of Indy's great catchphrases, at least once: "I hate snakes" and, of course, "That belongs in a museum!" A century ago, when the OI was building up its collection, Middle Eastern governments still permitted foreign archaeologists to take home half of what they found. But, like many museums, the OI doesn't have enough space to display everything it owns, so plenty of treasures remain in storage in the museum's basement. Conspiracy theorists rest easy: the Ark of the Covenant's probably not down there. But then again, if it's all crated up, who can tell?

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