Saturday, February 5, 2011

Indiana Jones in 2011

In 1980, I was a computer programmer in Los Angeles, taking screenwriting classes at night. One day I learned of the existence of 12 pyramids (two rows of six each) that an orbiting satellite had discovered in a remote area of the dense Amazon rain forest in Brazil, near Peru. I decided to use this information for my first screenplay.

I knew a physicist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena who explained all the technical details involved to me, including how a satellite could use spectroscopy to determine the physical properties of items on earth.

Thus, I decided to write a screenplay about a scientist examining satellite data who discovers a pattern of 12 pyramids with a smaller pyramid in the middle of the pattern encased in gold. The scientist destroys his findings, forms a small expedition and journeys to South America to seek a treasure (with bad guys on his trail, of course). The working title was THE MIDDLE PYRAMID – certain to be a blockbuster adventure movie, or so I fantasized.

I worked on the screenplay for about six months, mostly on weekends using a typewriter, and finished the first draft just about the same time a movie came out in 1981 titled RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, about a scientist (archeologist) embarked on an expedition for treasure (the Ark of the Covenant) with bad guys on the same trail. Sadly, I realized that my screenplay would now look like a rip off of the same film, so I shelved it and begrudgingly started another one.

Although George Lucas and Phil Kaufman were credited for the story, and Lawrence Kasdan received screen credit for the screenplay of RAIDERS, a man named Randolph Fillmore purportedly wrote the first draft. In Hollywood, multiple writers often work on the same film but the Writer's Guild determines who gets final credit.

According to various sources, Randolph Fillmore was a volunteer who worked with an archeologist named Dr. Vendyl Jones in 1977. Dr. Jones agreed to help Fillmore with the script on two conditions. First, it couldn't be set in Israel and, secondly, that Fillmore wouldn't use his name. Thus, Fillmore set the story in Egypt and altered Dr. Jones' name. "Vendyl Jones" became "Endy Jones" which later became "Indiana Jones."

Dr. Vendyl Jones is one of the leaders of the Noahide movement, comprised of non-Jews who observe the seven laws of Noah. As a teacher, he published a book in 1959 predicting the precise outbreak of the Six Day War and was the only non-Jewish American (Texan) who fought in combat in the Six Day War in 1967.

The Ark of the Covenant is considered to be the container of the Ten Commandments given to Moses at Mount Sinai. According to the Bible, the Ark measures 2.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits (62.5 inches by 37.5 inches by 37.5 inches), which is precisely identical in size to the king's chamber in the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

Dr. Jones is currently waiting for permission from the Israeli government to probe for the Ark which he believes was hidden in a secret passage (placed there just before the destruction of the First Temple) under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He contends the passageway is a tunnel that extends 18 miles southward. The Ark was subsequently brought through the tunnel to its current resting place in the Judean Desert.

With the help of an ancient document found in Qumran, Dr. Jones is convinced he knows the location of the Ark. In the Copper Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the first five lines read: "In the desolation of the Valley of Achur, in the opening under the ascent, which is a mountain facing eastward, covered by forty placed boulders – here is a tabernacle and all the golden fixtures." Dr. Jones believes this is the key to finding the Ark.

Having walked over a group of boulders in that exact location many times, Dr. Jones suddenly came to realize the huge boulders didn't come off the mountain – they had to have been brought in from someplace else. He plans to drill a bore hole and drop a pin camera into the chamber below. All he needs now is permission.

"Israel is a lot like heaven," Dr. Jones proclaims, "it's a lot easier to get forgiveness than it is permission."

Time will tell -- if such an important religious artifact is to be found, it will probably happen when it's meant to happen.

May the Force be with you -- oops, that's a different movie.

Quote for the Day -- "It's not the years -- it's the mileage." Indiana Jones

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where archeological discoveries consist mainly of old beer cans along dirt roads. His blogs appear on several websites, including

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