South America is a part of the land that has a long and rich history. Numerous tribes and even several empires were existing in the continent in ancient times – Maya and Aztec, in particular. Large cities, pyramids, and palaces were part of the South American culture until the European invaders came. In the late 1400s – early 1500s, explorers came to the lands of South America and established their own rules. They conquered native inhabitants and ruined numerous cultural treasures. Nowadays, the gold of Aztecs refers to legends rather than reality – no wonder that contemporary movie-makers use this concept as a background for their creative works.
Indiana Jones is one of those fictional characters, who appears to be the generalized collective image of an adventurer in search of mysterious treasures. The archaeologist has visited South America many times. The first film of the media franchise – the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), starts with the discovery of the ancient idol called the Golden Idol of fertility. According to the plot of the movie, Indiana Jones travels to the fictional temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors, guarded by the fictional tribe of Hovitos somewhere in Peru. Although being a fictional artifact, the Golden fertility idol appears to be a convincing embodiment of the ancient treasures, as it was also mentioned in other movies. Moreover, it is a perfect iconic image of every treasure hunter’s goal. Being made of solid gold, the idol can be considered as a symbol of those forbidden treasures the Spanish conquerors came for in the 15th century.
On his way to the idol, Indiana Jones overcomes numerous complications and traps, as the temple is filled with shooting darts, falling stones, and dangerous holes. In spite of this terrifying description, the real Chachapoya people were far from such artful engineering. They were building impressive and fortified cities instead of trap systems. Contrary to the description of the underground temple, the image of the idol itself has a strong real-life background. The goddess of fertility in the movie looks similar to the real figure from the Aztec culture, which was found in one of the pre-Columbian collections. The facial expression of the idol is well-designed and substantiated as if it is made by ancient masters. The figure reveals strong interest among the scientists, even though most of them are not sure of its originality.
Although the artifacts from the Raiders of the Lost Ark are accepted with a certain amount of skepticism, the real contribution of the movie lies in the obvious contrast between the initial South American culture and the concepts came from the conquerors. The Aztec civilization, whose goddess idol appears in the movie, was actually well-developed and rich. However, the image of Hovitos, who seems to be the inheritors of ancient beliefs, are established as poorly developed. They are almost naked, although the Diego Rivera’s murals depict Aztecs as a rich and well-dressed people, and, what is even more unlikely, they are still subordinating to the authority of a white man – Indiana Jones’ competitor Belloq. Another prominent detail is the antipathy of the main character to the snakes. The snakes were associated with fertility and the continuity of life in ancient South American cultures. By claiming that he hates snakes, Indiana Jones literally states his indifference to the culture itself, being attracted by the treasure only.
The trip to the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors is not the only one that connects Indiana Jones with the South American culture. He also traveled to the jungles of Peru one more time, while looking for the Incan Shrine, and to the Temple of Akator, located in El Dorado. However, the review of the first movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, shows that the Indiana Jones franchise is connected with the perception of the ancient world by the modern ancestors of the conquerors, rather than culture itself.