Movie superheroes are often inspired by true stories, like the life story that you will discover below, where we will see how Chichén Itzá, Indiana Jones and Sylvanus Morley are related.
June 7, 1883 was a crucial day in the history of archeology and cinema. On that day, Sylvanus Morley was born, the respected archaeologist who undertook the monumental task of rebuilding the historic Mayan city of Chichén Itzá.
Known for his vast knowledge of the Mayan civilization, this prominent scholar had a more colorful career than most, as he too was an intelligence agent in Mexico during the global conflagration of World War I.
Morley’s life was so vibrant and unique that some believe he served as the model for one of the most iconic characters on the big screen: the intrepid archaeologist Indiana Jones.
Sylvanus Morley’s story is one of ongoing fascination and engagement with ancient history. From an early age, Morley found his passion in the pages of books that detailed the great civilizations of the past, being particularly captivated by the rich and ancient Mayan culture.
Although he initially followed his father’s wishes and trained in engineering, his true calling led him to the prestigious classrooms of Harvard to earn a degree in archaeology.
After earning the degree from him, Morley went on his first scientific expedition to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. There, he ventured into jungle and hard-to-reach areas to conduct extensive investigations.
It was during this time that Morley envisioned his next big challenge: the Mayan city of Chichen Itza. Morley set out to obtain research funding from him, an effort that, while successful, required him to wait until 1923 to formally begin his study of this historic site.
As World War I raged in Europe, Morley remained in Mexico. In a shocking twist, he was recruited by the United States Office of Naval Intelligence to spy on the Germans. Despite the criticism of Franz Boas, who condemned this activity arguing that he discredited the archaeological profession, Morley fulfilled his duty.
When Morley was finally able to begin his work at Chichén Itzá, he discovered that the Mexican government was already in the process of restoring the famous pyramid known as El Castillo. However, this did not deter Morley and his team at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Over the next two decades, they made discoveries of great importance, including the Temple of a Thousand Columns and the Temple of a Thousand Warriors.
Beyond Chichén Itzá, Morley also left his mark on other archaeological sites in Mexico, such as Coba, and extended his research to other countries such as Guatemala and Honduras, contributing to the understanding of the pre-Columbian cultures of the region.
At an academic level, his most relevant contribution was his in-depth study of the Mayan calendar. His solid contribution to the field of archaeology, combined with his daring spirit and his unusual service as a spy during World War I, made an impact beyond academia.
Indiana Jones and Sylvanus Morley
His adventures and discoveries influenced Steven Spielberg to bring to life one of the most unforgettable characters in movie history: the charismatic archaeologist Indiana Jones, portrayed with aplomb by Harrison Ford on the big screen.
Morley was a tireless explorer who ventured throughout the Mexican territory, braving dense jungles and inhospitable terrain in his search for Mayan ruins.
Not content to limit himself to the Yucatan peninsula, he extended his travels to places as far away as Guatemala and Honduras, always carrying his curious spirit and his vast knowledge of pre-Columbian cultures.
Despite the criticism he faced for his role as an intelligence agent during World War I, Morley continued to focus on his work and contributed greatly to the field of archaeology. His meticulous research on the Mayan calendar provided invaluable insight into this ancient civilization and paved the way for further research.
The life of Sylvanus Morley is a tale of intrigue and discovery, a testament to man’s endless curiosity to unravel the mysteries of ancient civilizations.
At the heart of this tale is the impressive restoration work he carried out at Chichén Itzá, an enduring legacy that drew the attention of filmmaker Steven Spielberg and provided inspiration for the creation of the famous Indiana Jones.
Although Morley passed away in 1948, his life and work continue to inspire archaeologists and adventurers alike.
From the jungles of the Yucatán to movie theaters around the world, Sylvanus Morley’s contribution is a testament to one man’s deep passion for the ancient Mayan civilization and the enduring legacy he left behind for the world.