Indiana Jones movies have been a staple of the action-adventure genre since the 1980s. Audiences have been enthralled by the films’ generous blending of fiction, history, archeology, action, and special effects. I remember especially how terrifying the special effects of Raiders of the Lost Ark seemed to me as a child watching it on VHS for the first time! While the melting face from Raiders of the Lost Ark is memorable, the special effects have definitely improved in this summer’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny—for example, you can witness Harrison Ford’s remarkable transformation into a youthful Indiana Jones of the 1940s.
The colorful plot revolves around a fictional artifact, the Archimedes Dial. The Dial, created by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes, allows for time travel by revealing time fissures. Of course, everyone wants to own and control the Dial, so the artifact passes through many hands throughout the movie. These exchanges naturally lead the audience through many disparate times and places.
Time travel is central to the plot of the Dial of Destiny, particularly the matter of controlling time. As Recipes Project readers know, time is also an essential element to harness in the preparation of any recipe. Rachel Rich, for example, considers the passage of time in nineteenth-century kitchens in her 2013 post, “Keeping Time in the Victorian Kitchen.” Upon seeing the youthful Indiana Jones in the Dial of Destiny, audiences will undoubtedly recall another method of controlling time, cosmetic procedures, despite the film’s use of digital effects rather than plastic surgery or related interventions to de-age Harrison Ford. Jess Clark has detailed some early twentieth-century cosmetic procedures in London intended to “renew the youth” of patients; the special effects used to create a younger Indiana Jones are thankfully safer and more effective.
While time travel is crucial to the storyline, the prominent role of an artifact in the film sustains an Indiana Jones tradition. Everything hinges on one object—the Dial. The film’s characters are repeatedly concerned with the counterfeiting of artifacts such as the Dial, as well as the theft of artifacts, both as spoils of war and subsequent smuggling in peacetime. These are timely matters to consider as major museums and art collectors are publicly reckoning with the future of their stolen, smuggled, and counterfeit items.
Forgeries and counterfeiting instructions have long been of interest on this blog, particularly in regard to gemstones. Umberto Veronesi wrote about the use of enamels to counterfeit gemstones, the Making and Knowing team explored multiple counterfeit recipes, including one for jasper, and Marjolijn Bol’s 2014 post “Topazes, Emeralds, and Crystal Rubies. The Faking and Making of Precious Stones” details several examples of the practice in Antiquity.
As the film’s characters travel through time, we catch a glimpse of ancient Greece. Not only is the titular Dial created in this setting, but pivotal moments in the film’s action and Indy’s self-reflection occur here. The Recipes Project is a wonderful source for filling in more quotidian elements of Grecian life than depicted in the Dial of Destiny. Laurence Totelin has contributed posts on lice and the alleviation of fevers. Other posts include Glyn Muitjens on hemorrhoid relief, Flint Dibble on animal sacrifice, and Effie Photos-Jones on miltos, a mineral with a myriad of uses in ancient Greece. These essays provide significantly more nuance to the period than the movie’s focus on the battlefield.
In true Indiana Jones fashion, the Dial of Destiny keeps viewers focused on action and adventure, rather than nuance and historical background. Rest assured that after you finish the film, you can turn to the Recipes Project for some extra context and a gentler time travel experience.