Friday, September 23, 2016

Archaeology is not really something that people associate with horror. Action movies are generally the only genre Hollywood associates with archaeology. However that doesn’t mean archaeology doesn’t have its place in terror. For those of you who are fans of Halloween Horror Nights, there is a house this year that has certain archaeological overtones. 

Tomb of the Ancients is an original house this year focusing on the awakening of  “ancient ones” from their slumber. The house description online is vague so I wasn’t really going into the house expecting much. However as soon as the line turned to the front of the house, I realized what I was getting into. There was a white work truck parked among a ton of palm trees in front of a temple face that was covered in vines. My friend immediately turned to me and said, “This is like an archaeology house,” nudging me jokingly. He wasn’t wrong though. The storyline of the house featured people, who I assume to be archaeologists or some kind of tomb raiders, stumbling upon an ancient temple and stirring up ancient evil that resided inside. Despite the Mayan looking temple facade, the inside was pure Egyptian. There were Egyptian styled hieroglyphs, sarcophagus, mummies, and even some scare actors dressed as Anubis. I won’t spoil too much for you, but it was a clear conglomeration of different cultures. The house was fun, for those of you who will end up at Horror Nights this year and are debating on whether or not to give it a shot.

This isn’t the first case of the entertainment industry using the trope of unsuspecting archaeologists unearthing ancient curses. It’s a trope that has been used so much there’s actually an onion article about it

Universal has also done this before, just without mentioning actual archaeologists. In The Mummy, Evelyn an aspiring Egyptologist travels to the fictional city of Hamunaptra along with a rival group of treasure hunters. Evelyn is not an archaeologist, but a librarian and arguably a historian. However, the team goes excavating in search of an ancient book and treasure. They awaken an ancient curse and resurrect a mummy who goes on a killing spree. The Halloween horror nights house is very reminiscent of The Mummy franchise.

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A lesser-known horror movie The Ruins focuses around an archaeological dig site. The movie is set around Mayan ruins and a group of tourists who are helping a man look for his brother, an archaeologist who has gone missing. I won’t spoil the movie for you, but it is implied that said missing archaeologists stumbled upon a cursed temple and has brought said curse upon themselves and their friends.

Archaeology has always had a strange position in pop culture; either we are associated with Indiana Jones and his action packed scenes of running from booby trapped temples, or with unearthing ancient evils. There doesn’t seem to be much in between. So do archaeologists spend their time uncovering ancient evil and fleeing giant boulders? Well, no, but that doesn’t mean we don’t find “malicious” artifacts. In August, archaeologists in Serbia unearthed gold curse tablets. The inscriptions were thought to be magical spells invoking the powers of good and evil.  Similarly there were 4th century BC lead curse tablets excavated from a cemetery near Athens that had inscriptions cursing business owners. A robber who stole two ballista from an Israeli dig site in the 1990s returned them claiming that they had brought him nothing but suffering since he took them. 

While we may not unearth ancient curses and resurrect mummies, archaeologists do occasionally find artifacts worthy of the silver screen. Personally, being a big fan of horror, I'd rather have people think my job involves interpreting ancient curses than the misconception that I dig up dinosaur bones for a living. 

Written by: Megan Liebold, FPAN Staff
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