Raiders of the Lost Ark and the other Indiana Jones movies feature a cast of unforgettable characters led by the intrepid archaeologist himself. But sometimes it's the objects of Indy's desire—often jeweled and veiled in mystery—that steal the show.
Some, like the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, may actually exist—though no one knows for certain. Others are fantastic fictions, grounded in a bit of fact, and uniquely part of the Indiana Jones lore.
Cross of Coronado
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a young Indiana Jones regains the stolen Cross of Coronado, a bejeweled golden crucifix belonging to Francisco Vazquez de Coronado.
In reality, there's no such artifact. The movie prop was inspired by one of Spanish America's most enticing legends—the Seven Cities of Cibola.
The fictional cross's namesake, Coronado, was a real conquistador who explored parts of the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542 in a quest for the gold of the lost cities. But Coronado found only typical Native American pueblos and villages, many of which he destroyed.
Cup of Kali
In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom the Cup of Kali is wielded by Mola Ram, leader of a cultish band of Thuggees that had enslaved an Indian village in their quest to unearth the sacred Sankara stones.
In reality, Thuggees did once exist in India. They weren't much like Mola's bunch, but they were a bad lot nonetheless. These bands of highway robbers waylaid travelers and often murdered them for their valuables.
Thuggees worshiped the Hindu goddess Kali, an incarnation of the mother goddess Devi, who is associated with death and destruction.
Mola Ram's fictional Thuggees also celebrate Kali, though their theatrical practices bear little resemblance to real-world worship of the deity.
Headpiece of the Staff of Ra
This jeweled artifact was central to the quest for the Ark of the Covenant that consumed both Indiana Jones and his Nazi competitors in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Ra was ancient Egypt's sun god and the creator of the earthly world. He was believed to sail across the sky each day and journey through the underworld each night before being reborn at sunrise.
In Raiders, the sun unlocks this artifact's tremendous power and pinpoints the location of the Well of Souls, which holds the Ark of the Covenant.
Nurhachi was the great leader of the Manchu nation. During the 16th and 17th centuries he first consolidated its tribes into a powerful military machine. Soon after his death the Manchu nation he launched became known as the Qing dynasty and subsequently ruled China for nearly three centuries.
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