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"Ravenwood is the real expert. Abner did the first serious work on Tanis. Collected some of its relics. It was his obsession, really. But he never found the city."
―Indiana Jones[src]

Abner Ravenwood was an Egyptologist and archaeologist at the University of Chicago in the 1920s. He was a mentor of Indiana Jones, whom he taught at the university, the father of Marion Ravenwood, and posthumously grandfather to Mutt Williams. Ravenwood's lifelong obsession was to find the Ark of the Covenant.


Early studies[]

Abner Ravenwood spent his early days assisting Flinders Petrie, helping excavate Palestine and earning degrees in history and archaeology at Yale and Harvard.[3] He also studied anthropology under Franz Boas. On one occasion, while discussing the subject with Sir Adrian Braidthwaite, Ravenwood accused the British of practicing "armchair anthropology", theorizing on other cultures from the comfort of home, based on reports from braver individuals. Braidthwaite bristled at the suggestion, but later considered the accusation largely correct. Ravenwood's comments were partially the impetus for Braidthwaite's 1910 expedition into Africa.[4] At some point in his career, Ravenwood also partnered up with Bill Kershaw and Andre LaFonte, but ended it after he caught them cheating on invoices.[5]

Note: The following section is ambiguously canon.
It contains information that originates in a source that has not been deemed definitively canon.

At some point in his career, Ravenwood explored Malekula, an island in the Pacific Ocean, where he lost an Ebony Dove after being chased off by the island's inhabitants.[6]

Ambiguously canon information ends here.

In March 1909, Ravenwood's daughter Marion was born.[2]

Note: The following section is cut content.
It contains information cut from the final release of an Indiana Jones medium, or otherwise unpublished. Everything said in this section and not elsewhere did not happen in the "proper" Indiana Jones continuity.

Later, in June, Abner for the first time met the young boy Henry Jones Jr, later known as Indiana Jones, in Jerusalem. Jones learned that Ravenwood owned a map showing the potential resting place of the Ark of the Covenant under the Temple Mount. Ravenwood later explained that he believed the Ark was buried somewhere else, and that one day a real archaeologist would find it.[7]

Cut content information ends here.
Indy in 1922

Indiana Jones, Abner's most notable student.

In March 1919, for his daughter's tenth birthday, Abner took Marion to the Washington Monument, Washington DC.[8]

By the 1920s, Ravenwood was a longtime professor of archaeology at the University of Chicago. Among his students were Harold Oxley and Indiana Jones.[9] Ravenwood considered Jones to be the most gifted student he had ever trained, and as their relationship evolved, came to love him like a son.[1] At one point the professor and student attended a lecture by polar explorer Evelyn Briggs Baldwin.[10]

His summers spent on excavations in Egypt and the Middle East, amassing clues to find the Ark of the Covenant, led to obsession. When Ravenwood's scholarly obligations suffered as a result of ignoring them, it prompted the University of Chicago to ask him to give up on the relic or leave. Abner chose the latter and continued his search.[3] Professor David Pierson, one of Abner's colleagues at the University, remained in correspondence with Abner for a while, but ceased contact with him when Abner went a long time without answering his messages.[11] Unwilling to see his only child living alone, Ravenwood brought Marion along on his travels all over the world. In search of clues to the Ark's location they journeyed across Europe, Egypt, Iraq and Iran,[3] filling entire notebooks[12] before the pair eventually settled in Nepal and started a bar. Abner used their income to finance his excavations in the surrounding mountains.[3]

Working with Indiana Jones[]


The Raven, Patan.

In 1925, still struggling with funding, Abner sent Indiana Jones his journal with a written request for his assistance in finding the Ark of the Covenant on one last expedition before returning to Marshall College.[11] During that time Jones and Marion became romantically involved but the relationship didn't last a year.[2] Jones rejoined Abner Ravenwood in Jerusalem 1926,[13][14] but it was in Egypt where Abner recovered the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra, near the village of San el-Hagar. However, he was unable to locate Tanis' Map Room, let alone the Well of the Souls.[2]

A 1927 journal reported on an expedition by Abner and Jones in Sinkiang.[15] Sometime after July, Abner confronted Jones about the man's involvement with his young daughter which led to the collapse of their friendship. In their last conversation together, Abner accused the then twenty-eight-year-old of taking advantage of Marion's "brainless infatuation" with Jones, and twisting her to his purpose.[16] He still considered her his "sweet little girl" and thought it best she be with him until she "matured."[3]

Last days[]

While exploring the Himalayas in the 1930s, Ravenwood—as an authority on religious antiquities discovered in the North Orient—was interviewed by a newspaper via cablegram interested in his opinion on the lost tomb of Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, explaining to the interviewer his opinions on if why didn't Emperor Shi Huang count with a sarcophagus, if he would have left treasure of monetary value on his tomb like Egyptians often did or where his corpse should be.[17] In 1935, letters with Ravenwood's name attached were exchanged with Indiana Jones following his former student's discovery of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye in India.[18]

After months of research in the mountains following a theory that the Ark had been taken through Nepal by Alexander the Great's army, Ravenwood was believed to have perished in an avalanche in 1936 while searching for the artifact, shortly after realizing the Ark remained at Tanis.[3][19]


"Everybody's sorry. Abner was sorry for dragging me all over this earth looking for his little bits of junk."
―Marion Ravenwood.[src]

Later the same year, the Nazis under orders from Adolf Hitler started searching for the Ark of the Covenant, with Colonel Herman Dietrich in charge of the whole operation in Egypt. The U.S. government intercepted a message from Cairo to Berlin saying "Tanis development proceeding. Acquire headpiece, staff of Ra, Abner Ravenwood, U.S." The government at first suspected Ravenwood as being in cahoots with the Nazis, but Indiana Jones and National Museum curator Marcus Brody discarded that theory at once. Jones was then requested by the government to find the Ark before the Nazis.[1] Around that time, on a printed list of objects Jones had annotated, the archaeologist added the Ark at the top by hand and dedicated it "For Abner".[20] As he still had Ravenwood's old journal in his possession, Jones was able to trace the last known whereabouts of his former mentor to Nepal.[11]

The Gestapo agent, Major Arnold Ernst Toht, was ordered by Hitler to acquire the headpiece from Ravenwood, but he found that Abner was gone and Indiana Jones had also come looking for it, reconciling with his mentor's daughter in the process. In the end, Indy and Marion located the Ark, retrieved it from the French mercenary René Emile Belloq and his fellow Nazis and brought it to Colonel Musgrove and Major Eaton, who proceeded to take the Ark to be hidden among the nearly-endless crates of Hangar 51 in Nevada, finally bringing Abner's lifelong search to an end.[1]


The mysterious masked man, whom Marion suspected to be Abner.

Following the Ark's discovery, while taking a shot as a journalist for The New York Times, Marion cited the experience she got from working with her father as one of the reasons she would be ideal to assist Indy and Brody in looking for Atlantean relics related to the Shintay clan. Later on, while rowing through the rivers of the Congo, Marion acknowledged to Indy that they hadn't spend much time together since the latter's days as Abner's apprentice, leading Indy to remark that his interactions with his mentor were more "barking than talking" or trying to run away for their lives, but that things had been currently good enough for them to remember how well they spent time with Abner.[8] A time later, while discussing a potential job with Marion at the National Museum, Brody cited the archaeological experience she was taught by her father along with her natural inventiveness,[21] and after getting the job, Marion confided to Brody that her father loved Indy as a son before he romanced her, despising him for the rest of his days before dying in the avalanche. Such feelings led Brody to theorize that maybe Marion's loyalty to Abner's memory had created a barrier or wedge between her and Indy, which a conflicted Marion didn't accept or deny.[22]

Sometime afterwards, Marion received a telegram from her father's former associate Bill Kershaw implying that Abner was still alive. She was joined by Jones, who expressed some reluctance at Abner having survived the avalanche and told Marion that she shouldn't get her hopes up, but Marion was sure that she still needed to see if Abner had really died or not and reassured Indy that if he feared Abner could "destroy" their relationship if he was alive, she still needed to find him and promised to make their relationship "survive" if Abner felt their pairing was "worthwile". The search for Abner took them back to Nepal, to the hidden city of Ra-Lundi whose god was said to be a Caucasian man. What they found was a man in a golden mask who possessed neither voice nor memory, that had been found wandering in the snow.[5]

Convinced that he could be her father, Marion kept repeating her name to the man in the mask in the hope he'd recognize her to no avail. However, once she and Jones had left, the masked man repeated her name back. He later helped the pair blow up the city's actual god, the F'han-Tal, to protect its power from Andre LaFonte's men, but he was believed to have been killed in the large explosion created to destroy it. Marion decided that if the man had indeed been her father, Abner Ravenwood was finally at peace.[23]

Abner would later be brought up again by the Nazi assassin Hans Degen, who revealed what he knew about him when facing Marion, Marcus and Indy while on their journey to clear up Brody's name due to a frame-up by Ben Ali Ayoob. While infiltrating Ayoob's castle, Marion confided to Marcus how she spend most of her early life wondering how grown men like her father could fight for "dusty pieces of junk", leading her to be dragged by her father to several places and never guessing where she would end up or who she would bump into.[24]

Note: The following section is ambiguously canon.
It contains information that originates in a source that has not been deemed definitively canon.

During her stint as the National Museum's public relations agent, Marion Ravenwood found her father's correspondence with Indiana Jones over the Temple of the Forbidden Eye and was shocked that the two had been communicating during their decade long estrangement. Seeing that Abner had also written to Jones's digger companion Sallah and was trying to save the archaeologist from being killed by his own excavation in the Lost Delta, Marion reflected that "parents are complicated", and took some reassurance that, in the end, Abner and Indiana had been headed towards a reconciliation.[25]

Ambiguously canon information ends here.

Two years later, Ravenwood posthumously became a grandfather with the birth of Marion's son, Mutt Williams,[2] and by 1939 was the father-in-law of Colin Williams.[9] In 1957, Abner gained a son-in-law in his former student when Marion married Indiana Jones after reuniting during the mission to return the Crystal Skull of Akator to its owner before the Soviets.[9]

Behind the scenes[]

"He should have a mentor in this. Somebody you never see but he refers to from time to time, somebody you want to see. The man who taught him everything."
Steven Spielberg, developing Indiana Jones' background for Raiders of the Lost Ark.[src]

Abner Ravenwood is frequently mentioned but has never appeared in any published Indiana Jones adventure; plans to include him in the action were made, but never materialized:

Ravenwood conceptart

Concept art by Hugh Fleming.

  • Lawrence Kasdan, writer of Raiders of the Lost Ark, said that when writing the script he kept the door open for Ravenwood to appear in possible sequels. In fact, the film does not definitely confirm the character's death, which at least for Kasdan meant that he still could be alive.[26]
  • During the early development of what became Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, director Steven Spielberg wanted to bring back Marion Ravenwood[27] with the idea of including Abner in the story.[26] However, when George Lucas decided that Indy would have a different love interest in each of the films, the idea was dropped.
  • Two issues of Marvel Comics' comic book series The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones (published in 1984) hinted that Ravenwood was still alive, and presented a masked character that may or may not actually have been Ravenwood.[5][23] In the Readers of the Lost Ark letters section of issue 26, the Marvel writers in charge of the series expressed their then intentions to flesh out Indy's past after being asked by a fan on if they would take the opportunity of the comic book format to flesh out the past relationship between Indy and Marion and Abner's influence over it.[28]
  • Graverobber Fedora (portrayed by Richard Young) from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was originally intended to be Ravenwood in early scripts, but the idea was dropped for the final film.[29]
  • During production on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, George Lucas had the idea for an episode entitled "Jerusalem, June 1909" which saw nine-year-old Indiana Jones meeting Ravenwood for the first time. However, the episode was never filmed due to the series' cancellation.[7] In Treasure of the Peacock's Eye, Indy references an earlier visit to Jerusalem, which might indicate that the events of the unproduced episode are, at least in part, still considered canonical.

    Abner Ravenwood's proposed look for Emperor's Tomb.

  • Dark Horse Comics' Indiana Jones and the Lost Horizon was intended to present Ravenwood's story and would have marked the character's first appearance, but the project was scrapped early in development. The series would show how Ravenwood with the help of Indy found the headpiece to the Staff of Ra in the belongings of a Chinese warlord. According to artist Hugh Fleming, actor Wilford Brimley was the model for Abner Ravenwood's planned appearance in the comic.[30] The events were referenced in The World of Indiana Jones.[31]
  • Ravenwood was also originally intended to appear as Indy's partner in the Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb video game, but it complicated the game design.[32] Concept art for the character — showing an Abner not quite as hefty as the Fleming version, but still sporting a mustache and fedora — can be unlocked during the game. Ravenwood's appearance seems to be inspired by the look of actor Tom Selleck, who originally was cast in the part of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  •, the franchise's official website, originally claimed that John Hurt would be playing Abner Ravenwood in the then-upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull before the information was removed.[33][34] The reason for this announcement is unknown, as it was later revealed that Hurt was in fact playing Harold Oxley.[9] As the cast listing on the official site also included Ian McDiarmid as reprising his Young Indy role of Professor Jacques Levi, it is possible that the names were a red herring meant to solidify mid-2007 rumors about John Hurt's appearance as Abner Ravenwood.[33][35][36][37]



Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Raiders of the Lost Ark Sourcebook
  4. Indiana Jones Magic & Mysticism: The Dark Continent
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "The Search for Abner: The Grecian Earn"
  6. Indiana Jones and the Curse of Horror Island
  7. 7.0 7.1 StarWars The Lost Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones on (backup link on
  8. 8.0 8.1 FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "Africa Screams!: Crystal Death"
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  10. Indiana Jones and the Hollow Earth
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones
  12. Raiders of the Lost Ark (TSR)
  13. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Annual 2009
  14. Indiana Jones Annual 2010
  15. Grail Diary (game documentation)
  16. Raiders of the Lost Ark novel
  17. Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb: 1935 Journal
  18. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
  19. 1934 according to the Raiders of the Lost Ark novelization.
  20. Indiana Jones action figures (Pack: The Lost Wave)
  21. FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "The Fourth Nail: Blood and Sand!"
  22. FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "Demons"
  23. 23.0 23.1 FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "The Search for Abner: The City of Yesterday's Forever!"
  24. FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "The Cuban Connection: End Run"
  25. Disney Magic Kingdoms
  26. 26.0 26.1 The Complete Making of Indiana Jones
  27. Indiana Jones: Making the Trilogy
  28. FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "Trail of the Golden Guns"
  29. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Trivia at
  30. Hugh Fleming interview at
  31. The World of Indiana Jones
  32. The Collective interview at
  33. 33.0 33.1 Indy Update: Indiana Jones 4 Casting Confirmations. Archived from the original on 2013-05-23. Retrieved on 2008-07-04.
  34. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Cast: John Hurt (source code). Lucasfilm. Archived from the original on 2008-02-11. Retrieved on 2019-09-22.
  35. Franklin, Garth (2007-06-10). The Random Spiel: June 10th 2007. Dark Horizons. Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. Retrieved on 2019-09-22.
  36. Faraci, Devin (2007-06-28). The Adventures of Mutt and Abner. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved on 2019-09-22.
  37. Sciretta, Peter (2007-07-31). Did John Hurt replace Sean Connery in Indiana Jones 4?. /Film. Archived from the original on 2011-03-08. Retrieved on 2019-09-22.

External links[]