The work of an archaeologist is indeed like no other. Whether you are excavating or conducting surveys, every day in the field one faces the prospect of encountering long forgotten artifacts or just maybe a mysterious temple! This habitual act of discovery undoubtedly inspires the adventurer trope with which archaeologist have become associated in pop culture.
Today, we kick of the Archaeological Oddities Blog, with a particularly fine example of this “Archaeologist as Adventurer” trope. One day at my local comic book shop (Shout out to the fine folks at B&D Comics), I picked up a 1990s issue of Doctor Strange. Tucked into the back of the issue was an advertisement for 3 Musketeers Chocolate bars, featuring the discovery of “The Tomb of the Last Maya King.”
The optics are fantastic! Archaeologists bravery enter the pyramid, complete with torches in hand, only to find a chocolate bar in place of the tomb. Though no one is disappointed with this discovery! It is of interest to this blog, that an adventurer archaeologist was considered a good caricature to sell chocolate to comic book readers. The image of Indiana Jones looms large, but we will save him for another day.
This ad was but one in a series, tracking down the other installments shows us that archaeologists are in good company. Other instalments in this ad campaign featured military commandos, deep sea salvage operators, astronauts, extreme sports photographers, and our good friends the paleontologists (at least 3 Musketeers noted that archaeologists and paleontologists do in fact have different jobs!).
The point for my fellow archaeologists revolves around the public perception of archaeology. Most archaeologists think of their job as interesting, but have a good chuckle when the archaeologist as adventurer trope comes up. Dismissing this trope is a mistake if we wish to understand how the public engages with archaeological research. As far as kids reading comic books are concerned, archaeologists stand toe to toe with astronauts and military commandos!