Archaeologists of MST3K

Watching Robot Wars the other day (Rooney!) it occurred to me that there’ve been quite a few archaeologists on MST3K. As an archaeologist, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on each of them. I mean, a lot of what you see in the media about us just isn’t accurate. We do still fight a lot of Nazis, though.

Robot Wars: We’ll start with Leda since she started this, and because Barbara Crampton is awesome (and apparently doesn’t age!). Normally we don’t work alone, but we do take soil samples and routinely investigate weird conspiracies. She’s also a pretty good fighter, and who among us hasn’t had to fight off a bunch of Centros in our time?

Being from Another Planet: Ben Murphy’s pretty mellow, and so are a lot of archaeologists. Normally we let the special hazmat guys deal with killer fungus, though. I’m not even an Egyptologist and I’ve fought at least two mummies in my time, so that’s pretty accurate. But aliens, though, really? That’s just too goofy, and the whole “aliens must have done it!” is just racist garbage.

The Mole People: I haven’t seen this one in a while, so I might miss something. These guys, man, they were out of date even at the time. Finding a forgotten remnant of an ancient civilisation lost in some ridiculous Hollow Earth scenario, then “accidentally” destroying all the evidence? How positively Victorian! Plus, I’ve only seen like, three mole people in my entire career, and they’re nothing like these guys. Normally they just complain.

Werewolf: 100% accurate. Ha, just kidding! We almost never get into brawls in the trench, and when we turn people into werewolves we’ve got a better reason than just killing off security guards. We do exclude Joe Estevez from our excavations, though. There are also a lot of foreigners working in archaeology. Technically I am one, but my accent isn’t that outrageous and my hair hasn’t changed in over ten years.

Honorable mentions where they’re not actually archaeologists.

Beyond Atlantis: Uh, we’ve got a super general all science background haver or something? I’m starting to think she’s got one of those mail-order divinity doctorates, but maybe this is a hobby and she’s really good at whatever it is she actually does. Anyway, we usually try not to destroy the cultures we study these days and rarely have to use Slow English because we work closely with local archaeologists.

Final Sacrifice: Troy’s an amateur archaeologist, I suppose, but we’re not that whiny. Fighting cults is pretty normal, though. I’d worry if I worked on a site for more than a couple of weeks and didn’t run into one, actually. But lost cities? None of the cults we get these days can manage that level anymore; it’s way too much effort. The best most can pull off is a lost convenience store or something. I did get sacrificed once, but I got better.

Terror from the Year 5000: This is sort of reverse archaeology, looking at artefacts from the future. Using radiocarbon dating is silly, though, since it’s not an organic artefact and it’s from the future! Plus, you can’t date anything from after the 50s since we’ve severely disrupted the carbon cycle in ways that will probably lead to that bad future. So that’s kind of a funny twist. Weirdly related, I did run into a version of me from the future once. That guy’s a jerk.

I’ve probably missed one or two, but hopefully that’s a good start and will give a bit of insight into what archaeology is really like.


Is Kalgan from Space Mutiny an archaeologist? I mean, he seems to know more about ancient dentistry than a layperson.


I think we have to classify that as a historical hobby, but now I’m curious what archaeology would be like on a generation ship. I think I’ve got a new story idea!


I saw Being From Another Planet/Timewalker before it was on MST3K. Maybe the mellowness of Ben Murphy spurred my lifelong love of archaeology.

Also, Wanda’s dad in Alien From L.A. was an archaeologist.


One thing I do appreciate is that most of the movies get the distinction between an archaeologist and a paleontologist, or at least don’t make the common mistake of confusing them.


I knew I forgot one! Yeah, a lost, subterranean city of Australians. In my experience those usually end up being dimly-lit pubs where you met a few Aussies the night before.


That’s always worth bonus points when they get it right.


Are we to assume that your deliberate omission of Track of the Moon Beast means archaeologists harbor some secret affection for moon beasts, or is it just that you’ve all learned to be a bit more careful who you share your stew recipes with?


In real life archeology, how big of a nuisance are rival archeologists who try to seal you inside ancient tombs? Seems like that must happen a lot.


You got me. That was on my list, but I somehow forgot when I wrote this. I think Johnny Longbow was an anthropologist and not an archaeologist (although they’re more synonymous in the US), but we’ve got similar problems with shapeshifting moon beasts and extremely lame pranks.

Oh, I don’t have that problem… anymore.


Was Johnny Longbow his real name though?

I’ve always thought the various -ologists took a stage name early in their careers to protect their secret identities and keep students who write secret messages on their eyelids from finding their home addresses.

I mean, c’mon. Johnny Longbow is a bit much, right? It sounds as real as…I dunno…Ohio Smith or something.


Typically here archaeology is considered a sub-discipline of anthropology (which makes some sense). With the usual academic rivalry, one often hears the cultural anthropologists and archaeologists complaining that the other isn’t a ‘real science,’ but I think that has more to do with competition for lab space. Then there are the physical anthropologists… but I’ll withhold my own interdisciplinary chauvinism.

Paleontology is even less clear: you might be a geologist or a biologist, but that has very little to do with what department you are in or what degree you have. Half of everyone is going to wonder what you are doing in their department. I usually identify as a geologist because it covers more ground, but about a third of my lecture experience is in biology.


It is not uncommon for Native Americans to use their translated name instead of their name in their native tongue. As I recall, the direct translation of his name is something like “he whose arrow shoots straight and far” (here come the corrections…). I have never heard of Indians using longbows, but ‘Longbow’ is euphonious (sownds gud) and has some cultural resonance outside of Native America. And let’s face it, no dude is gonna turn down being called “Longbow.”

[apologies for spamming… I somehow forgot I had already responded. Mornings…]


Joking aside, I met an ologist several years ago in Kansas who was working on an excavation somewhere near Mexico City.

It was during the height of the Ancient Aliens biz on the History Channel and it was a lot of fun talking to him about the oblivious(?) racism of that show and how much pop culture gets wrong and how poorly communicated a lot of what the ologists know about ancient peoples tends to be.


Does Crow count as an archaeologist? Or at least as having performed an archaeological study of the SoL’s earlier proto-Crow inhabitants with their fertility symbols and whatnot.


I’ve worn too many hats to get caught up in those conversations. That said, can you believe what the forensic anthropologists are wearing this year?!

I’ll just say there’s a reason most reputable archaeologists won’t have anything do with with some channels/production companies. :skull:


He was an anthropologist because the sheriff said, “Johnny, you’re an anthropologist. I was hoping that you’d…”



Would the blond lady in Pumaman be an archaeologist? She’s the one gushing about the mask with Blofeld. I know the Pumaman himself is a paleontologist.

Also, the Gamera doctors. Were they archaeologists or anthropologists when they went and were studying the rock?

Oh, and hey, isn’t George Nader’s character in Robot Monster an archaeologist? Or was he doing geology instead?


I’m just surprised that radar archaeology wasn’t the breakout academic discipline of the '50s.




Looked like geology to me. They were studying the cave walls and they didn’t appear to be painted or etched by anyone.