Several real-life adventurers share ties with ‘Indy’
An isle missionary's son found adventure and artifacts while in Peru
STORY SUMMARY »
NEW HAVEN, Conn. » Growing up in a Hawaii missionary family, Hiram Bingham III longed to escape his parents' rigid fundamentalism.
As a 12-year-old Punahou student, he ditched school, lifted $250 from his college fund and bought a ship's ticket for the mainland, but his plot fell apart when the vessel delayed its voyage.
His big break came as a Yale University lecturer in 1911 while exploring the mountainous jungles of Peru. There Bingham stumbled across the ruins of Machu Picchu, now world renowned as the "lost city" of the Incas.
After a decades-long dispute, Yale has agreed to return to Peru thousands of 15th-century artifacts that Bingham collected from the Machu Picchu palace and nearby burial caves, including necklaces, bronze knives, bronze and silver shawl pins, and a wealth of ceramics, including decorative dishes, jars and cooking pots.
The finds made Bingham the undisputed tomb raider of his day. In fact, he laid the groundwork for Hollywood's "Indiana Jones," whose latest movie opened Thursday.
FULL STORY »
Although "Indiana Jones" creators George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have never identified a flesh-and-blood inspiration for their character, Hawaii-born Hiram Bingham III was both an Indy-class explorer and college professor.
George Lucas and Steven Speilberg got the inspiration for the "Indiana Jones" series while vacationing in Hawaii, and the opening scene of the first film was filmed in the state.
The costume designer for "Indiana Jones" said that the inspiration for the character's clothing came from the 1954 movie "Secret of the Incas" starring Charlton Heston.
On the Net
The Raider fan site:
Conceived by Lucas and Spielberg as they vacationed in Hawaii in May 1977, the original movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), opens with the protagonist exploring a booby-trapped temple in a jungle. Those scenes were shot in Hawaii and Peru.
The costume designer for the film, Deborah Landis, said in a 2005 interview on fan site TheRaider.net that the inspiration for Indy's garb came from Charlton Heston's character, Harry Steele, in "Secret of the Incas" (1954), which the crew watched "several times." That movie, which features Machu Picchu, came out only a few years after Bingham's best-selling book, "Lost City of the Incas."
Other real-life contenders:
» University of Chicago archaeologist Robert Braidwood (1907-2003), one of the first to apply scientific methods to archaeology, who surveyed Turkey's Amuq Plain in 1938. In name and position, Braidwood sounds more like Indy's mentor, Chicago professor Abner Ravenwood.
» Wisconsin-born explorer Roy Andrews (1884-1960), whose expedition to Mongolia in 1923 was the first to find dinosaur eggs. Andrews, a taxidermist by trade, was a paleontologist, not an archaeologist.
YALE UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
Hawaii-born explorer Hiram Bingham III, shown in Peru, wrote "Lost City of the Incas," a 1948 best-seller about his adventures that may have inspired the Indiana Jones character played by Harrison Ford.
» English adventurer F.A. Mitchell-Hedges (1882-1959), who claimed to have discovered "The Skull of Doom" at the Mayan ruin of Lubaantun in British Honduras in the 1920s.
» British archaeologist Percy Fawcett (1867-1925), who disappeared in 1925 during an expedition to find a lost city in Brazil. Brad Pitt is reportedly first choice to play the role in a movie tentatively titled "The Lost City of Z."