‘Indiana Jones’ Relics & Artifacts In The Franchise, Explained

Aside from the peppy characters, the awe and wonder of the globetrotting adventures, the unforgettable scores, and the inventive action sequences, the reason why the legend of Indiana Jones has gained a cult following since the 1980s is a balanced admixture of facts and fiction when it comes to delving into the intricacies of history and archaeology. Especially the ancient, legendary relics of the past with mystical properties, in order to obtain which a cat and mouse game between the titular character and his rivals ensues, are a point of interest for not only history nerds but the general audience as well. With the fifth and final movie of the franchise making the rounds in theaters worldwide, let us take a look at the significant antiquities that Indy wrestled out of the clutches of the bad guys.


Spoilers Ahead

The Golden Idol Of The Goddess Of Fertility

Raiders Of The Lost Ark is the first movie in the Indiana Jones franchise, and the Chachapoyan fertility idol is the first relic that establishes Indy’s role in the movie as an adventurer and treasure seeker. Located in a hidden temple in the depths of the Peruvian jungles in South America, the golden idol of the fertility goddess was kept in a trap-filled chamber, complete with darts, booby traps, and dangerous crevices. The native locals who were protecting the temple were the extinct Peruvian tribe Chachapoya; hence, the unnamed idol derives its name from their identity. The concept of the idol itself might have been inspired by the Quechua goddess of fertility, Pachamama, or the Aztec goddess of the same aspects, Tlazolteotl.


Headpiece Of The Staff Of Ra

In the same movie, Indy gains possession of the headpiece of the staff of Ra, an ancient Egyptian artifact that was used to identify the location of one of the most important artifacts of the saga, “The Ark Of The Covenant.” Indy’s mentor, Professor Abner Ravenwood, had discovered the headpiece, which came into his daughter Marion’s hands, and she later sold it to Indy. The Nazis, led by Gestapo Toht and Indy’s rival treasure hunter René Belloq were looking for the Ark as well, as Hitler believed the Ark, with its supposed mystical properties, might help the Nazis win the war. The cherub engravings of the headpiece were imprinted on Toht’s hand during an accident, which Belloq tried to use to create a replica of the headpiece, which ultimately didn’t work. On the other hand, reaching Egypt in search of the Ark, Indy locates the Well of the Souls using the headpiece of Ra, where they find the Ark. However, this relic had no real historical significance or counterpart.

The Ark Of The Covenant

The real-life counterpart of this relic holds immense historical and cultural value, as the Ark is connected with all the Abrahamic religions, in particular Christianity and Judaism. It is mentioned in the “Book Of Exodus,” that Moses was given a holy Ark by God himself. The Ark is an intricately made chest-type structure with the ten commandments written on it. In the movie lore, it was believed that the Ark could grant unfathomable power, the greed of which even swayed Hitler’s mind enough to seek it despite it being a Jewish icon. However, the Ark proved to be an extremely dangerous artifact when used for malicious intentions, as it caused biblical levels of havoc on the Nazis, melting the face of Toht, exploding Belloq’s head, and burning all the Nazi troops along with them.


Sankara Stones 

As seen in the second entry of the franchise, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, the mystical rocks known as Sankara stones were the prime McGuffin of the movie. According to the movie lore, during ancient times, a priest named Sankara gained the five mystical stones from the Hindu deity Shiva to protect the world against evil forces. Millennia later, during the timeline of the movie, in India, the Thugee cult high priest, the vicious Mola Ram, acquired three of the stones and used enslaved kids to search out the rest of the two. In the end, Indy invoked Shiva’s curse of betrayal, which resulted in the stones burning in Ram’s hand, who died after falling from a great height. The real-life counterpart of the stones is the Shiva lingam, the phallic symbol of the god Shiva, which is worshipped by Hindus in his image.

Holy Grail

Literally, the Holy Grail, which was used by Jesus Christ during The Last Supper and also contained his blood when the famous Lance of Longinus drew his blood while he was crucified, was the object of interest in the third entry, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. The mythical chalice, which is supposed to grant immortality to anyone who drinks from it, was guarded by the last of the bravest Arthurian Knight Templars, and amongst other extravagantly designed, potentially dangerous chalices, Indy chooses the right one and saves his fatally injured father, Henry Jones Sr. Albeit the recovery is temporary, as the usage of the grail came with a caveat: the effects of immortality will be applied only in the Great Seal of the Temple, where it was originally kept.


Akator’s Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of the Crystal Skull featured the mysterious legend of the Crystal Skull, the Mesoamerican artifact in real life whose origin and sculptural details fascinate modern archaeologists to this day. The lore of the mythical El Dorado and the city of Akator were intermingled, and the Crystal Skull, according to the movie lore, belonged to aliens with inconceivable powers and incomprehensible knowledge, even a fragment of which produces literal mind-blowing effects on the villainous Irina Spalko.

Antikythera, Dial Of Archimedes

Finally, in the latest and final installment of the franchise, Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny, the enigmatic Antikythera, created by legendary mathematician and inventor Archimedes, is featured. The dial is presumably the earliest specimen of an analogue computer in world history that can be used to measure astronomical positions. In the movie lore, however, the dial also functions as a temporal meteorological device; it can predict the fissures of time, which can allow a wormhole-like entry and exit to a destined point in time. Nazi scientist Jürgen Voller tried to use it to change the course of history by killing Hitler and becoming Fuhrer himself but ended up in 212 BC due to the fixed coordinates of the dial (Archimedes made it as a SOS signal, which can bring visitors from future to help the Greek during Roman invasion) and died during the Roman siege of Syracuse. Indie, who was abducted by the Nazis, along with his goddaughter Helena and her associate Teddy, also went during the time period and got a chance to witness history unfolding in front of him, even meeting Archimedes himself.

Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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