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This article is about Well of Souls at Tanis. You may be looking for the Peruvian Well of Souls.

The Well of the Souls (or simply Well of Souls) was a vault, part of a temple built within the ancient city of Tanis, where the Ark of the Covenant was placed after Pharaoh Shishak stole it from Jerusalem.


The Well of the Souls was built after the Ark of the Covenant was taken to Tanis by Pharaoh Shishak around the year 980 BC. A vault, part of a temple commissioned to honor the Egyptian war dead who fell in Shishak's military campaign against the Israelites, was used to hide the Ark from Amun-Ra, the Egyptian sun god.[4]

By 1936, the Well was infested with snakes that slithered in through the walls. Indiana Jones and Sallah found the chamber and had to fend off the reptiles using gasoline and torches to get to the stone coffin that contained the Ark. Both men worked together to lift the coffin's heavy lid before tossing it aside and using long handles to lift the Ark out. They placed it in a crate and had their men lift it out, but Sallah was captured by Nazis who dropped the rope, trapping Jones. Marion Ravenwood was thrown into the chamber with Jones by the Nazis despite René Emile Belloq's protests. Under orders of Colonel Herman Dietrich, the Nazis slammed the tomb shut with Jones and Ravenwood inside,[1] sealing the Well of the Souls for eternity.[5]

However, both Jones and Ravenwood ultimately found a way out from the Well, as Jones broke through one of the walls of the chamber, revealing a room filled with many mummified corpses that frightened Ravenwood before the two made their way out of the Well.[1]

Behind the scenes[]

The Well of the Souls contains references to George Lucas' Star Wars film series. The first on a wall which featured the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, while the another featured Princess Leia Organa inserting the Death Star plans into R2-D2.


A pair of droids from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

Three thousand snakes were ordered months in advance, but when the production crew laid out the snakes, they discovered that 3,000 was no where near enough to carpet the set as the scenes called for. Another 7,000 snakes were procured, for a total of 10,000 snakes.

The wide shot of Indiana Jones and the Arab diggers at sunset digging over the Well of Souls were partly inspired by the one of the many vistas represented in David Lean's film Lawrence of Arabia, which is considered by director Steven Spielberg as his favorite film and the one which inspired him to became a filmmaker.[6] When Jones is dressed as an Egyptian worker during the Map Room scenes, he closely resembles the on-screen T.E. Lawrence after the grateful Arabs give him Bedouin clothes.[7]

While the Well of Souls featured in the film is depicted in Egypt, there is an actual "Well of Souls" from which the legend of the Ark is based. It can be found under the Foundation Stone under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The well is accessable to visitors as a stairwell has been made for storing the Ark beneath the stone in case of war.[8]



Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Although the Raiders of the Lost Ark Sourcebook has Shishak's reign come later in the century, it does establish the Well of the Souls as having been built following his invasion of Jerusalem, dated as around 980 BC by the film.
  3. IndianaJones Ark of the Covenant on (backup link on
  4. Raiders of the Lost Ark Sourcebook
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark comic
  6. A Conversation with Steven Spielberg
  7. Lawrence of Arabia - Indiana Jones' Influences at
  8. Jerusalem's Mysterious Well of Souls May Hold Ancient Secrets at National Geographic

External links[]