In Real Life, archeology is not the most fast paced of careers. It can involve a lot of research, dirt, and going over small details like diet and theorizing on them. A real archaeologist can make her or his career by the meticulous analysis of the contents of a garbage dump and indeed, they (well, a few) would prefer to find the dump rather than a king's tomb, since the dump can tell them far more about the way ordinary people lived, with far fewer legal and ethical ramifications. Additionally, a dump will have items of low or underestimated value, reducing the allure for tomb robbers who might have broken into tombs and ruined the information.
Not so in fiction-land. Since most of the world has the ruins of ancient and powerful civilizations littered under the surface, archeology is a career that brings one constantly face to face with Temples of Doom; Lost Technology, imprisoned evils, and MacGuffins. Lots of MacGuffins. If it takes place on Earth and the writers don't make one up, it'll usually be something like an Egyptian tomb (expect a mummy to haunt our hero) or the Holy Grail.
In fiction, it then becomes perfectly reasonable to use any means to acquire said MacGuffins, no matter how destructive. Who cares if you have to destroy ancient machinery that could well be thousands of years old and still works? There's a gold monkey at the end! And you get to wear a dashing Adventurer Outfit!
Adventurer Archaeologists are capable of dressing up very well for more intellectual appearances, but forays into studying usually occur off-screen, and it's never implied to take very long. (Compare Badass Bookworm.)
An Adventurer Archaeologist has an interesting morality. Ruins are rarely really "abandoned" as the descendants of the Precursors, or their ghosts, or even their mystically preserved selves are very upset when outsiders intrude, and especially when they take the focal points of their culture with them.
Most people call this "theft," and in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it's noted that the title character has been called a "grave robber" (although real archaeologists were once considered that). However, to an Adventurer Archaeologist, it's okay as long as it goes into a museum. To keep the audience rooting for the Adventurer Archaeologist, he or she is often pitted against an Evil Counterpart who wants the same treasure for themselves to hoard in a private collection, or to give it to the bad guys/sell to the highest bidder, use it to Take Over the World, etc.
This trope is Older Than Radio, an accomplishment when considering that archeology is a profession less than two centuries old. Antiquarians, historians, and intellectual grave robbers were a staple of 19th Century gothic horror and ghost stories. They appeared regularly in pulp adventure novels and film adventures dating back to the dawn of talking pictures, including the Universal mummy movies and the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan films. A certain George Lucas and Steven Spielberg series made it big again in The Eighties.
It should be noted, however, that this Trope and its origins do come from Truth in err.... Literature. Early archaeologists tended to be more concerned about their own glory and getting museum trinkets that looked good than actually discovering information about ancient cultures, or preserving knowledge for future research — let alone respecting or collaborating with the modern descendants of the people whose tombs and temples they excavated. Their methods were often horrible by modern scientific standards, as the examples below show, and they usually discarded artifacts that weren't glamorous or shiny, including some types that are considered quite scientifically valuable today. As a result, no one knows how much historical evidence will never be known to us through the carelessness of 19th and early 20th century archaeologists.
To be fair, Howard Carter's expedition to retrieve Tutankhamen's body and treasures was sensational. Finding the Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang would have been a glorious experience, as well. So while there isn't quite the same level of swashbuckling that Indy experienced, if you're lucky, hitting the jackpot can still be one hell of an adrenaline rush.
It also didn't help that the swashbucklng in fiction had a small kernel of truth. Militarized archeology has an uncomfortably long history. Around the time it was coming into its own as a respectable field, the world was hit by onemajor conflictafter another, each of which saw archeology politicized and militarized to a dangerous degree. For reasons ranging from trying to dig up the remnants of heavily mythologized "advanced civilizations" for technological or ideological benefit or as a neat way to do spying, preservation and cataloging of the past often had to negotiate minefields of militarized looting, diplomatic relations, and warring superpowers and local factions.
By the time World War One began, most of the participants in it—like Indiana Jones—tended to be properly trained archeologists who tried to handle things properly and also tried to keep their military involvement separate from their archeology (Ralph Bagnold for instance was an archeologist who signed up for the British military and used his experience and innovations to help form the Desert Rats). But it wasn't uncommon for archeological expeditions to be run like military expeditions (particularly during the war years). On occasion, these forces and their affiliated armed forces and intelligence agencies might even clash, with people getting killed and some priceless finds being either damaged or destroyed. Sometimes just to deny them to the enemy.
This has fortunately died down massively in recent decades, but it can still happen in select areas. Small wonder that many archeologists in real life learned to take up arms and get out of tight situations, and that those experiences have been distorted and blown out of proportion in the public imagination.
Often the main character in a Jungle Opera. Related to, but distinct from, the Bold Explorer.
See also Raiders of the Lost Parody.
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Seta from Love Hina; he takes on Keitaro as an assistant for a summer job.
Midori Sugiura's university professor and Most Important Person in Mai-HiME; we only see him in the end, having a stereotypical Adventurer Archaeologist adventure with Midori.
Yuuno Scrya from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. At age 10. With no parental supervision. On top of this, he's a high-class mage. He's more self-effacing than the usual example of this trope, and has some trouble with self-esteem and romance. However, though he fulfills this archetype before and sort-of during season 1, in season 2, he's introduced to the magically huge and horrendously disorganized Infinity Library. It holds any answer you might need... IF you can find it. He enters and practically never leaves again.
Bakura Ryou's father is an archaeologist in the anime and the owner of the Domino museum in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. Supposedly he bought the Millennium Ring on the streets of Cairo. Also, Solomon Muto—he found the Millennium Puzzle in a pharaoh's tomb filled with all sorts of traps.
Hunter Steele from Spider Riders may be one. Before he found the way to the Inner World, he had several archaeological tools with him. Also his grandfather may have been one because he found it first. Actually Mantid was first, arriving sometime during the 19th century, which means he may have also been an archaeologist.
Robin's mother, Nico Olvia, and a group of her fellow scholars set out on the seas of the One Piece world to locate clues to a blank spot in history known as the Void Century — something that the World Government wants to keep a blank spot by any means necessary, resulting in Olvia and everyone else on Nico's home island being killed and Nico herself having a bounty put on her head.
Explorer Woman Ray, title character of the anime of the same name. A late 1980s attempt by the anime industry to cash in on the popularity of Indiana Jones and the Girls with Guns genre (EWR's theme music even sounds eerily similar to John William's Indiana Jones theme).
Ruby Crecent from 666 Satan (AKA O-Parts Hunter) is a young archeologist who meets the main character when looking for her father.
Master Keaton: Taichi is an archaeologist, though he seldom has much adventure pursuing it. His other profession as an insurance fraud investigator more than makes up for that.
Some Hunters in Hunter × Hunter "hunt" ancient ruins and artifacts instead of animals or people. Gon's father Ging earned recognition for his work in uncovering incredible archaeological finds.
The Thief from Dan Hipp's Gyakushu is a great example of the trope.
Fred Perry's Gold Digger is made of this trope, starring the Diggers sisters Gina and Brittany and Brianna, prime examples, as well as numerous archeologist rivals, allies, and even Gina Digger's students in adventure archeology.
Rex Mason, who was transformed into Metamorpho by an artifact in an Egyptian tomb.
The original Doctor Fate's father. Lot of superpowers in them tombs...
Jared Stevens - who had a brief stint in the 90s as Fate - was a treasure hunter.
This trend may have been due, in part, to the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in the 1920s. Egyptology was so popular in the 1920s and early 1930s that the Chrysler Building's architecture was modeled after ancient Egyptian designs. This carried over into The Golden Age of Comic Books, when many super-heroes got their start.
Golden Age Hawkman was also an archaeologist, and it's been suggested that his civilian name, Carter Hall, was a deliberate Shout-Out to Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamen's tomb.
Mariah from The Warlord is an archaeologist who becomes a sword-swinging heroine upon her transport to the Lost World of Skartaris.
Although what we see is only a very small portion of what he actually does and certain supplemental materials make it clear that he does spend a lot of time teaching, as well as identifying and cataloging artifacts for museums as well as the college he works for.
Lampshaded heavily in The Last Crusade where Indy is briefly seen lecturing a class that archeology is concerned with facts and research, a lot of the work is done in libraries, and he specifically tells the students it is not about finding lost cities, buried treasure or following maps to a big "X". He then promptly ditches the class to go on an action-packed adventure that involves everything he just spent class period dismissing. And some Nazis.
Another lampshade comes courtesy of a line from his father:
Henry Jones Sr.: (while escaping from Nazis) You call THIS archaeology?!
The O'Connell Family from The Mummy movies and cartoon act like this, even though none of them are officially archeologists (Rick O'Connell is a military defector looking for treasure, and Evy is trained as a librarian rather than an archeologist).
Classic early appearance: in the opening scene of the original Boris Karloff version of The Mummy (1932), a graduate student is studying a scroll at a table when the mummy's bandaged hand reaches past him to touch the parchment. As the mummy walks away, the man starts laughing hysterically, later saying to his mentor "He went for a little walk!" One of them notes in a later scene: "He was still laughing when when he died two years later." Yep, life is tough on graduate students and archaeologists in general.
Charlton Heston appeared as Harry Steele in Secret of the Incas. Costume designers credit this film as being the inspiration for Indy's getup.
Benjamin Gates (played by Nicholas Cage) from Disney's National Treasure franchise is a historian and amateur cryptologist who does all that work to be prepared to find the treasure and he only keeps looking for it so as to protect it.
Most of the main characters in the original The Adventures Of Captain Marvel movie serial from 1941. Interestingly, the main exception to this is Billy Batson himself, who is chosen by the wizard Shazam to become Captain Marvel because he's the only person on the expedition except the native guide Tal Chotali who suggests maybe smashing one's way through tombs and grabbing whatever is in there isn't such a good idea. Later, Batson is entrusted with the scroll which explains how the serial's MacGuffin, the Scorpion, works because he "is probably the only one among us who can't translate it."
Mortal Engines has two of these: the cowardly Small Name, Big Ego Nimrod Pennyroyal is more of a subversion, while the driven, hard-edged Thaddeus Valentine plays it deadly straight.
Amelia Peabody and her husband, Radcliffe Emerson, Victorian Egyptologists in a series of mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. These two go out of their way to subvert several aspects of the trope: they regard their adventures as interruptions, most of the time, and are always itching to get back to The Dig; and they are stridently clear about Egyptian artifacts belonging to the Egyptians, not, for instance, the British Museum, and make frequent derogatory remarks about the treasure-hunting approach of their predecessors and some of their contemporaries.
An anthropologist and zoologist rather than an archaeologist, but Professor George Edward Challenger from The Lost World and its sequels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle otherwise fits the bill to a T.
In a rare science-fictional example, Lucinda Carlyle from Ken MacLeod's Newton's Wake is a self-described "combat archaeologist." This involves mostly jumping through wormholes and gunning down post-singularity alien robots.
Averted with professional archaeologist Jacob Ramsey in Christie Golden's Dark Templar trilogy. Though described as a "maverick" by his peers, he points out that archaeology is not all adventures and being chased by boulders and he doesn't go about trying to manhandle his way into the Xel'Naga "temple".
Miss Alice Band, a "stealth archeologist" who also teaches traps and climbing at the Guild of Assassins, in Discworld. Any similarity to Lara Croft is entirely coincidental.
Adora Belle Dearheart also qualifies as this in Making Money. She travels about the Disc, looking for a digging up old golems.
Hand of Mercy features Helen Hawthorn. Technically Helen is an antiques dealer, but that doesn't stop her rifling through ancient artifacts, and theft and trespass at Isham house.
Surprisingly, the predecessor or unbuilt form of this trope is Older Than Feudalism: A piece of Egyptian literature from the 1st century CE, Setna-Khaemwase and Na-Nefer-Ka-Ptah tells the story of Setna, a prince of Egypt and a powerful wizard, searching necropoleis for the magical Book of Thoth which grants the reader great power. It does not end very well for him.
The Takers by Jerry Ahern, though it's actually the Big Bad who's the archaeologist. The protagonists are an action-adventure novelist, and his girlfriend who writes books on UFOs, Atlantis and the occult.
In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, a sci-fi novel by S.M. Stirling set on John Carter of Mars-type world made plausible with Bio Punk technology. The archaeologist protagonist jokes about the differences between himself and the tomb raiders of the movies. "I don't even have a bullwhip!" His colleague points out that (due to the dangerous Martian environment and culture) he is carrying a gun and a sword.
Aemelia Harsh in Stephen Hunt's The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.
Dr. Roger Burrows of the Tunnels series thinks about himself this way. In reality, while he is an archaeologist and he does go on a perilous adventure, he is too much of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander to really fit the mold.
Dr. Nina Wilde in Andy McDermott's The Hunt For Atlantis and subsequent sequels; she specializes in mythological legends such as Atlantis and Excalibur. Her parents were also archaeologists and were murdered on an expedition to the Himalayas to find evidence of Atlantis.
In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch, the crew of the Even Odds are often in line with this trope. Technically they're a retrieval squad, but they usually have a genuine archaeologist or two among them. While research is implied to be their primary activity, the resident archaeologists certainly participate in the actual retrievals, which usually involve the sort of excitement you don't find on genuine digs.
In the Star Trek: Mirror Universe, the novel Worst of Both Worlds has Jean Luc Picard of the Mirror Universe as a treasure hunter and slave to Gul Madred. He eventually runs away and uses the treasures and wonders he's found to destroy the Borg Cube that invades the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance.
In the Virals series by Kathy Reichs, Tory Brennan and her fellow virals are this when trying to find a female pirate's treasure.
Alex Benedict, the titular antiquities dealer of the Alex Benedict series, is one.
In the Harry Potter series, Ron's badass older brother Bill is said to work as a "curse-breaker" in Egypt. It's implied that this line of work involves being a cross between this trope and a Bomb Disposal technician.
The Star Wars Expanded Universe has a side character, never featuring clearly, named Corellia Antilles who is basically a Gender FlippedExpy of Indy. Her name is similarly "place plus common last name" - her real name is Henrietya - she specializes in "dangerous artifact collection" aka treasure hunting, and she was the subject of a popular series of holos.
Galaxy of Fear's Hoole is actually more of an Adventure Anthropologist - or xenoanthropologist, whatever word would be used for the study of different sentient species - but he gets roped into a spot of archaeology in Spore, when some miners have Dug Too Deep and found a Door of Doom with weird inscriptions on it.
Live Action TV
In the show Relic Hunter, Sydney Fox (played by Tia Carerre).
In Stargate SG-1, Daniel Jackson is a "purer" example in flashbacks, but modifies the way he works once he joins the SG team. He is occasionally mentioned to be on more traditional archeology digs when his schedule permits.
It's frequently implied that if Daniel had his way, he'd have the Stargate be used solely for this purpose.
Charlotte from LOST may fit. She's been identified as an anthropologist rather than an archaeologist, but in her first scene, she was butting in on a dig to unearth a Dharma polar bear in Tunisia and the show runners even addressed the archaeologist/anthropologist/Indiana Jones issue in a podcast. She also appears to be something of an Action Girl.
Though an anthropologist rather than an archaeologist, Dr. Temperance Brennan of Bones appears to harbor the occasional delusion of Lara Croft-hood. The series has established that she's an accomplished martial artist, markswoman and survival expert:
Caroline: Fine. Stop me when I get something wrong. Trained in three types of martial arts, two assault charges, registered marksman with the NRA, hunting licenses in four states...
Booth: You hunt?
Brennan: Only for food.
Caroline: Shot an unarmed man...
Brennan: He was trying to light me on fire!
The pilot episode hangs a few more lampshades on this, as the first five minutes show her returning from some South American jungle with a carry-on full of skulls, for which she neglected to obtain the proper importation permits, and then executing vigilante justice on Cleo Eller's murderer when it looks like the man will escape prosecution.
To be fair, as she said in the above quote, he was trying to light her on fire.
In the CSI: New York episode "The Cost of Living", one of these breaks into a disused part of the New York Subway and retrieves an item, in a large-scale homage to Indiana Jones that probably left many viewers wondering what they were watching... Then the team find his corpse:
Stella: Seems James [Sutton] fashioned himself a real Indiana Jones.
Late in the episode it is revealed that the adventurer archaeologist was a fraud. Having purchased the identity of a legitimate archaeologist, the man proceeded to live the fantasy of an adventurer archaeologist. He ended up being more successful than the person whose identity he was using.
On Friends a department store saleswoman flirts with Ross, using the absurd equation "paleontologist+works out=Indiana Jones." Talk about laying it on with a trowel. Ross is pleased, however (it helps the woman is gorgeous, much to Rachel's chagrin).
In The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg is an anthropologist but has serious Adventurer Archaeologist moments such as taking out a bad guy with a vending machine and jumping out of an airplane into the South American jungle with Jim to rescue Simon & Daryl Banks. Not bad for a neo-hippie witch doctor punk.
Examples of this trope IN SPACE are apparently common in the Verse of Babylon 5, among them Sheridan's wife, who disappeared on an archeological expedition.
Max Eilerson, from the short-lived spinoff Crusade, is an archaeologist who joins the crew of the Excalibur to gallivant across the Galaxy exploring the ruins of ancient alien civilizations. Of course, Max, working for a corporation, is mainly concerned with financial gain from any alien artifact or knowledge. This frequently puts him in conflict with the rest of the cast, who only do this out of necessity.
Briefly lampshaded in Warehouse 13, when the agents are sent to unearth Warehouse 2 in Egypt, Helena Wells changes into a very Lara Croft-esque outfit. When asked by Myka what she's doing, Helena explains that she's done research what female archaeologists wear. Myka corrects her, explaining that this is what American film-makers think female archaeologists wear.
Dino Attack RPG has Gahiji "Dust" Thutmose and Rick "Adventure" Spherus; the latter is even described as looking like a shameless knock-off of Indiana Jones.
Mage: The Awakening has "archeomancers", a faction of the Mysterium (collectors of magical lore) who search old ruins for artefacts.
Hunter: The Vigil has two such groups: the Loyalists of Thule, who track down arcane secrets to defend humanity from occult dangers and make up for that whole Hitler thing, and the Aegis Kai Doru, who collect magical artifacts and use them in their fight against threats to humanity.
7th Sea has the Explorer's Society, a continent-spanning organization of Adventurer Archaeologists. And their rivals.
Feng Shui's Seal of the Wheel supplement has the Two-Fisted Archeologist, which is a direct homage to Indiana Jones, with a unique schtick that allows them to defy death, showing up ten sequences later all banged up and with a crazy story to tell about how they survived. Most of them work for the Ascended, but some of them go independent or join the Dragons. There's also several fan archetypes lurking about the net.
One of the character classes in Rifts, Rogue Scholar is this, the picture of the character template even looks like Indy.
The Rogue Scientist fits the bill as well, only with a slightly different set of priorities. Both classes are adventurers dedicated to combing the ruins of Rifts Earth in search of lost knowledge from the Golden Age of Mankind (i.e. the late 21st Century). Rifts Earth is such a Crapsack World that if they didn't know how to defend themselves, they probably wouldn't make it to the ruins alive, let alone get back in one piece.
The Back East supplements for Deadlands included an Archaelogist archetype suitable for use as a player character that was very heavily based on Indiana Jones.
In Exalted this profession is called "Scavenger Lord," and in some parts of the world is a very respectable, even honored career. The Second Age is littered with the ruins, and sometimes the incalculably valuable/dangerous artifacts/superweapons/Lost Technology of the First Age, which may be guarded by ghosts, monsters, or demons. A successful Scavenger Lord must be much more than a bookworm to survive, but the potential payout is high.
Techpriests from Warhammer 40,000 combine this with Cargo Cult and Lost Technology. In true 40k fashion, there's not much romantic adventure in their work. Though if they end up waking up some Necrons (again), things can get far too adventurous for one's comfort...
Johnny Thunder of LEGO Adventurers and Jake Raines of LEGO Pharaoh's Quest both fit this trope to a tee. Based on his bio on the LEGO Dino Attack website, Digger might also qualify.
In fairness, when Lara Croft gets into these kinds of situations, she's usually chasing far more powerful enemies seeking artifacts. Both the movies and games occasionally had a Big Bad wanting abuse some mystical power- in other words, Lara Croft isn't so concerned about preserving the ancient ruins because she's in a race against time to keep some villain from using a powerful artifact with horrendous consequences.
Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series. Lampshaded: No one ever calls what he does 'archeology'. They all refer to him as a thief, and they're absolutely right, though he'd probably prefer "treasure hunter". It's just, sometimes treasure is inside museums, or under guard by heavily-armed mercenaries...
Garrett of Thief is at least honest in that he freely admits to being a looter. He winds up otherwise fulfilling the role anyway, though, as he usually manages to grab at least one MacGuffin without meaning to. Though one treasure in a lost city setting in Thief 2 triggers him to ponder aloud that "Archaeologist sounds much more dignified than Thief". Archeologists normally don't break into museums to reacquire the artifacts they had sold to them.
The Kosugis from the La-Mulana series are an entire family of Adventurer Archaeologists who are also descended from ninja (and those infiltration techniques are useful for exploring ancient ruins).
Subverted in Mass Effect with Dr. Liara T'Soni. When you first meet her, she's a meek, shy scientist that's fallen foul of one of the death traps in the ruin she's excavating. Once she's off-planet, however, she's able to keep up with three trained marines, a former Special Forces soldier and a thousand-year-old krogan battlemaster. In the second game she's switched career paths and is now an up-and-coming information broker. Her personal DLC sees her killing and replacing the most influential information trader in the galaxy, promoting herself to Illusive Man-level mover and shaker.
When asked about how traveling with Shepard's crew compares to her previous work, Liara laments that she'd be happier with more exploration time and fewer explosions.
Referenced again in Lair of the Shadow Broker. Liara comments at one point that information trading isn't that different from archaeology, in that you're sifting mountains of refuse for a few valuable scraps - however, dead bodies tend to smell a bit more when they're not thousands of years old. Later in the DLC, a search of her apartment will turn up a framed copy of her doctorate (another character comments that "she really got her money's worth out of that education"), a painting of the ruins on Ilos, and several display-cased Prothean artifacts.
One of the uncharted worlds mentions the planet is occupied by a volus billionare who is obsessed with searching the planet's abandoned crypts for "lost beings of light" who hid away weapons to fight a "darkness from beyond the stars." It's implied the volus is insane (although Shepard and his crew would likely disagree), but he has his own army of mercenaries digging up the planet.
Shepard can play Adventurer Archaeologist in both games, recovering ancient asari writings, turian clan insignia, Prothean artifacts and data disks from sites spanning the galaxy. You can even keep a Prothean relic in your cabin as an art piece.
By the time of Mass Effect 3, archaeology has become a necessity. The Reapers are invading, and the best bet to stop them is to build the Crucible: an ancient Prothean-designed weapons system. The most effective way to decipher the Prothean script surrounding this weapon is to study Prothean artifacts, effectively militarizing archaeology.
Brann Bronzebeard and Harrison Jones are the leading examples, joined by Belloc Brightblade in Cataclysm.
The Explorers' League seems to lean towards this somewhat. This is likely a reflection of its recent birth out of renewed Dwarven interest in their origins and thus a lack of well-developed procedures. Their leaning towards more aggressive archaeology is seen in the numerous large pits dug by dwarven archaeologist, often with explosives, and the angry, displaced locals trying to kill them as a result.
With Cataclysm the early connotations of archaeology's sordid early years has become even more obvious. The Reliquary and League, Horde and Alliance archaeology initiatives respectively, often find themselves at direct cross-purposes. Their solutions usually involve asking players to murder their opposition, sabotage their opposition, and/or steal finds from their opposition.
As of Cataclysm, the players are this. Digging up artifacts, it's not uncommon for player Archaeologists to find themselves first needing to fight off the rightful or not-so-rightful owners of the artifacts before making a break for it. Although the tedium and long work involved does show fairly effectively (in MMO terms). It can take a round-continent trip of an hour to complete a single project, which is often something you had found previously. Then, like many early archaeologists, you sell it to the highest bidder.
Similar to real archaeology, most finds are relatively common with little value, with the more valuable finds being rarer. The most sought-after artifacts can only be discovered once per character and can be exceedingly rare to discover.
Mists of Pandaria adds new dimensions to archaeology, including an actual museum, crates to store completed artifacts, and a map allowing you to locate new sites. While this produces a slightly more mature take on archaeology, digging now has the potential to wake monsters.
The Mooks in the Flash game Guardian Rock also qualify, though they have antagonizing roles.
Endless Frontier begins with the hero and his Robot Girl sidekick getting permission to explore a crashed spaceship... that they were recovered from when he was a baby.
Subverted in Final Fantasy Tactics A2, in the mission to recruit Montblanc. The reason he went to Jylland was treasure hunting. However, after Montblanc learned the treasures were already found by Luso, he says "Please, kupo, let's be realistic here. My life is more than bauble-hunting!"
The original idea of sphere hunters in Final Fantasy X-2 was this - dive into the ruins, grab the recording sphere, haul it back to a historian and let the contents be known. Within only a couple of years, however, it seems to have devolved into a mixture of this, tomb robbery, and a bit of out-and-out piracy, and that's just the heroes.
The Guild of Archeologists in Discworld Noir is a lot like this. It may be notable that their spokesperson is a young woman named "Loreda Cronk".
The Durmand Priory from Guild Wars 2. They vowed to seek ancient artifacts (Dwarf artiacts especially) in order to find a way to defeat the Elder Dragons.
PokémonChampion Cynthia. The focus of her study is the historical (and prehistoric) interactions and relationships between humans and Pokemon, and she seems to have a special interest in the mythology of legendary Pokemon, which explains her involvement in the events of Platinum.
The main characters in Borderlands and Borderlands 2, in the most technical sense. They're Vault Hunters, searching for ancient Eridian Vaults hidden in Pandora and in the process finding tremendous power, loot, and knowledge. Maya from 2 is a more specific example, as she is travelling the galaxy to learn more about Sirens like herself, and Pandora has close connections of Sirens and their powers.
Dungeons of Dredmor - The Archeology skill tree is chock full of shout outs to Indiana Jones (you even start the game with a familiar Nice Hat), but the only exploration and taking of valuable ancient artifacts you do is for your own survival, and anything you're not currently equipped with is probably getting sold as Vendor Trash.
Star Wars: The Old Republic allows any character to become this by taking the Archaeology crew Skill. The Jedi and Sith classes also spend some of their early levels delving into ancient ruins on their respective homeplanets.
Robert Ripley as imagined in The Riddle of Master Lu is not a real archaeologist, but his search for clues in sometimes dangerous ancient locations for clues in order to get to enter the tomb of the first emperor of China to stop a magical McGuffin from falling into the wrong hands is just like something from Indiana Jones — except that he isn't good at the fighting, he lets his girlfriend do that.
One career path in EVE Online. Recovering artifacts is part of exploration, and it can be dangerous - as with most things in EVE, the best sites are in low-security space, exposing any would-be archaeologist to attack by pirates. Also, EVE archaeologists are less concerned with studying history and more concerned with finding useful bits of Lost Technology.
Secret Files has Max Gruber who fits the trope. In the second game of the series, Sam Peters, a classmate of Max, is a rare female version.
Professor Alba of The Legend Of Heroes Trails In The Sky starts out as a subversion. As Estelle and Joshua encounter him in numerous ruins across the world, he is the typical absent-minded academic, possessing no offensive power of his own and needing to be kept safe on escort missions. Then, at the very end of First Chapter, he is revealed to be the Big Bad of the series.
From Wapsi Square, Monica's grandfather was one of these. Monica herself, on the other hand would claim to be an archaeologist of the far more mundane variety. She spends most of her time either in a library, or analyzing things for the museum, and she doesn't do field work. However, that being said, she still did manage to help bring down a smuggling ring in the process of acquiring an artifact.
Homestuck: Aradia Megido was one before she died. Even after death, she continued exploring and retrieving items from ruins, except she was focused on one set of prediscovered ruins with the intent of using them to create Sgrub.
Jade's Grandpa and his Alpha counterpart, Jake is also one.
The fictional version of Jackie Chan from Jackie Chan Adventures. This trope is parodied, however, when he comes to his niece's career day and gives an accurate explanation of what archeology is like in real life. He'd rather do the proper archeology, but rarely has time before the bad guys show up to try to grab the artifact.
On Kim Possible, this is the career of Lord Monty Fiske, until he reveals himself as Lord Monkey Fist (in his first appearance).
In an episode of Ben 10, Grandpa Max stepped into this role, with Ben and Gwen along for the ride, to keep an ancient superweapon from falling into the hands of the Forever Knights. All three are pretty glad when it's over.
I.J. Domiwick from Storm Hawks is a villainous example.
Show Within a Show example from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. In "Read it and Weep", while Rainbow Dash is in the hospital, she reads about Adventure Archaeologist Daring Donote Yes, we have an article on the book, as we watch her exploits on screen. It's basically an homage to Indiana Jones. Then later in "Daring Don't", we learn Daring Do exists for real and she's been writing the books under an assumed name.
Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin spent much of his ambassadorship to the Ottoman Empire during the Greek War of Independence at the Parthenon, recently exploded after the Turks used it as an ammo dump. Elgin collected and removed various friezes and sculptures and sent them back to Britain, where the 'Elgin Marbles' still reside. Whether Elgin was a savior of the priceless sculptures or, as Lord Byron phrased it, "a dishonest and rapacious vandal" is still an open question.
The Greeks tend to think the last and still want to get the Marbles back. The Acropolis museum even has holes in which the Marbles should go with something written about how the Marbles are, unfortunately, still in the British museum.
The British on the other hand argue firstly that the Marbles are of value to all mankind, and so should be housed in a genuinely global city, which London is and Athens isn't, and that the Greeks were doing a shoddy job of keeping them before Elgin rescued them.
T E Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia, was an archaeologist who was sent to Arabia by the British government specifically because of his academic knowledge of the area. So, being an archaeologist really can lead to exciting adventures!
Gertrude Bell, a peer and a mentor to T E Lawrence, was a famous spy and diplomat to the Middle East during and after World War One, helped reshape the region after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, founded the Iraqi Archaeological Museum (which was sadly extensively looted(by an inside job) during the 2003 invasion) and is still remembered with fondness among the people of the region, no small accomplishment for both a foreigner and a woman.
The statement about archeologists out for personal glory and museum loot rather than knowledge is also true for old-time paleontologists. Many people believe that Indiana Jones is based on the adventure paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews, and the famous "Bone War" between the Americans Marsh and Cope, which resulted in the discovery of many of the dinosaurs that are considered iconic today, also involved shoddy science, theft and outright destruction (dynamiting a quarry at the end of the season to destroy what was left to prevent the other guy from coming in and going through it). The brawls and murder, too.
The Wacky Wayside Tribe subtrope was also common place since many of the dinosaur sites in the western USA where located in barely charted Injun Country. It was later taken to the next level when Andrews decided to look for fossils in 1920s Mongolia. When Ungern-Sternberg was in charge. When the whole of central and east Asia was in a civil war and/or dominated by warlords. Even though no fossil had been found in Mongolia before. And guess what, he was successful, and uncovered one of the world's greatest dinosaur fossil beds, that of the Gobi Desert.note His original plan was to find remains of prehistoric men not dinosaurs, but, All Is Well That Ends Well, right?
There exists a series of cartoon-like illustrations made by Andrews depicting various events during that expedition such as vehicles getting stuck in the mud and sand. One illustration is captioned something like "getting ready for bed" and shows an illustration of Andrews laying on a cot in his tent, pointing a pistol at the entrance flap.
A real danger is finding the lost city of somebody's drug operations in contractual archeology; being an archeologist can get more guns pointed at you than the normal person.
Many college professors who focus on the Middle East occasionally get into slightly more perilous situations than the average archaeologist.
Heinrich Schliemann may be the ur-example of this; in thieving, digging, and bombing his way to and through the ruins of Troy and Mycenae, Schliemann essentially invented modern archaeology by negation when observers compiled a list of his activities that archaeologists should never repeat.
Rule 1: Go easy on the TNT.
He ended up destroying the very ruins of Troy he was trying to find - and ended up finding some even older ones under them.
Frederick Albert "Mike" Mitchell-Hedges could be considered this later on in his life (having started as a upper-class delinquent who made several nice discoveries).
Sylvanus Morley was, by all accounts, an excellent archeologist whose excavations of Mayan ruins in Mexico were highly influential. They also made a good cover for his spying for the American government during World War One.
Zahi Hawass, currently one of the most famous archaeologists in Egypt, is well aware of this trope and plays it up. (That brown fedora is not a coincidence.) This has made him very popular with TV crews, incidentally helping popularize Egyptology itself and get it proper funding, but because his methods can be a bit sloppy he's alternately loved and hated by "proper" archaeologists.
Giovanni Belzoni led quite the interesting life, working as a circus strongman before he moved on to finding lost temples in the Egyptian desert.
Belzoni is another guy cited as a possible inspiration for Indiana Jones, particularly the part about an unscrupulous Frenchnote Well, an Italian in French employ rival working for an expansionist empire led by an infamous dictator (in this case, Napoleon). The main difference being said rival was less an archaologist and more of a greedy, unethical businessman as well as the corrupt French consul for Egypt. He's the most deplorable example of "bad archeaology" on this page as he actually would intentionally destroy some of the stuff his men found to drive up the value of what was left over.
Any archeologist who does field work in the really unstable parts of the world fits this trope. Like the guys who work in Afghanistan looking for some of the old Buddhist remnants. Standard practice is to hire mercenary guards for any and all excavation efforts, both to avoid getting killed/kidnapped and to protect the items themselves since many religious militants are dead set at destroying any non-Muslim historical artifacts.