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Who is Indiana Jones? (so far...)

The man of mystery, Indiana Jones
The man of mystery, Indiana Jones Lucasfilm

As the Army intelligence officer in the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark" describes him: "Professor of archeology, expert on the occult, and, uh, how does one say it? Obtainer of rare antiquities."

That's about right, but there's more. Filmmaker George Lucas created a complicated flawed fictional hero in Indiana Jones, and the three movies that he dominates are studded with clues to his identity.

More biographical details are embedded in "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," Lucas' TV series now available on DVD, and in a bottomless trove of Jonesiana.

The fourth movie, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which opens May 22, will doubtless bring more clues, but here's the Jones boy's dossier thus far:

Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. was born on the cusp of the new century — July 1, 1899, in Princeton, N.J., according to his enterprising biographer, James Luceno. Luceno ought to know: He ransacked the world of Indiana Jones novelizations, comics, game books and other materials for his book, "Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide."

As a child, Indiana traveled around the world with his father, Henry Jones, and mother, Anna, on a lecture tour. As a youth, he survived the trenches of World War I to return to the United States to study archeology at the University of Chicago, disappointing his father so much that they didn't speak for decades.

Indiana's professor at Chicago, Abner Ravenwood, later commented that Jones was "the most gifted bum he (Ravenwood) ever trained," according to Marion Ravenwood, Abner's daughter — and Jones' love interest in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" — whom he seduced and abandoned, vanishing for 10 years. No wonder she slugged him when he resurfaced in "Raiders" and needed her help in searching for the Ark of the Covenant.

Most ladies have a soft spot for Indiana Jones. One female student in his archeology class painted "I Love You" on her eyelids, startling him in mid-lecture. J. W. Rinzler, author of "The Complete Making of Indiana Jones," said you "see the students having crushes on him, both male and female."

But his family relations are rocky. Estranged from his father, Professor Henry Jones, in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Indiana summed up their relationship as "what you taught me was that I was less important to you than people who had been dead 500 years in another country, and I learned it so well that we've hardly spoken for 20 years."

His father's retort: "You left just when you were becoming interesting." Indiana's mother, Anna, a major influence in "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," is mentioned in "Last Crusade" as an unresolved family issue. Despite their past history, father and son reconciled by movie's end.

Indiana's teaching takes a second place to adventuring. When Irene, his secretary at Barnett College in "Last Crusade," handed him a pile of unmarked papers as he prepared to enter his office, our man escaped his duties, and clamoring students, by slipping out a window. In contrast, his father, by Indiana's description, was "a teacher of medieval literature. The one the students hope they don't get."

But is Indiana a good role model? Even "Raiders" fictional museum director, Dr. Marcus Brody, dryly commented while waiting for Jones's latest grave-robbing haul: "I'm sure that everything you do for the museum conforms to the International Treaty for the Protection of Antiquities."

Real-life archeologists love the image, but hate the inaccuracies.

Professor of Archaeology Gil Stein, director of The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago (Indiana Jones' alma mater, class of 1922), says: "Archaeologists have two reactions at the same time. On the one hand, they just love it that archeology has become so well-known and associated with this kind of heroic image ... but at the same time they're kind of appalled. No real archaeologist would do the essentially tomb-robbing that Indiana Jones does."

Archeology professor Karol Chandler-Ezell of the Stephen A. Austin State University in Texas agrees. Jones, she says, is "the dream icon many of today's anthropologists were actually modeling when they romanticized the field. The hat, the jacket, those khakis. ... Bookish reader and mild-mannered professor with the round wire-rimmed glasses. An office full of teetering piles of papers and books. Cool knickknacks from around the world ... and all of that anthropological knowledge actually being useful!"

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