Imagine Indiana Jones and Lara Croft — riding bicycles across Iowa. They may not exactly resemble Harrison Ford and Angelina Jolie, but a team of enthusiastic Iowa archaeologists plans to ride the statewide bike ride RAGBRAI next week.
State Archaeologist John Doershuk says team members will be pointing out archaeological sites and artifacts they contain to other cyclists and anyone else who’ll listen. "These five riders that we’re sponsoring, and they’re officially registered with RAGBRAI, are committed to riding the entire event," Doershuk says.
"Several of them will be doing evening presentations, presuming that they can still stand and walk at the end of their day." That’s because they’ll be biking 80 miles a day in the summer heat of Iowa. The riders are on staff with the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist and the U-of-I Museum of Natural History.
Doershuk says each of the five will be pedaling 472 miles across Iowa while wearing T-shirts that read "Ask Me About Archaeology" and he says they’re ready to talk up their field of study. The team went out after the bike route was announced in May and drove the entire path across Iowa, taking pictures and doing research.
Doershuk says, "The riders have tucked away in their minds where different known archaeological sites are along the route and something about them so they’ll be able to chat it up pretty good." While fictional archaeologists like Lara Croft and Indiana Jones help to get the general public jazzed about the study of ancient cultures, Doershuk says the Hollywood films don’t give an accurate portrayal of what archaeology is all about.
"We’re trying to get at the story of what life was actually like for people in Iowa and by that, we teach everybody who we are, who people are, and the connectedness of people," Doershuk says. "We see it as looking into the past but really for a purpose that has a future orientation and that’s really for the betterment of everybody."
In addition to the nightly archaeological talks, members of the team will also give demonstrations on things like flint-knapping, the making of stone tools in the style of prehistoric peoples. RAGBRAI starts Sunday in the western Iowa town of Missouri Valley and ends the following Saturday in eastern Iowa’s LeClaire.