In 1980, I was a computer programmer in Los Angeles, taking screenwriting classes at night. One day I learned of the existence of 12 pyramids (two rows of six each) that an orbiting satellite had discovered in a remote region of the dense Amazon rainforest in Brazil, near Peru.
I decided to use this information for my first scenario.
I knew a physicist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena who walked me through all the necessary technical details, including how a satellite could use spectroscopy to determine the physical properties of objects on earth.
So, I decided to write a screenplay about a scientist looking at satellite data who discovers a 12-pyramid pattern with a smaller pyramid in the middle of the gold-covered pattern. The scientist then destroys his discoveries, forms a small expedition, and travels to South America to search for treasure (with bad guys on his trail, of course).
The working title was THE MIDDLE PYRAMID – sure to be a hit adventure movie, or so I fantasized.
I worked on the script for about six months, mostly on weekends using a typewriter, and finished the first draft around the same time a movie came out in 1981 titled Raiders of the Lost Ark, about a scientist (archaeologist) embarking on an expedition for treasure (the Ark of the Covenant) with villains on the same trail.
Unfortunately, I realized that my script would now look like a rip-off of the same movie, so I put it aside and reluctantly started another one.
Although George Lucas and Phil Kaufman were credited for the story, and Lawrence Kasdan received screen credit for the screenplay of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a man named Randolph Fillmore is said to have penned the first draft.
In Hollywood, multiple screenwriters often work on the same film, but the Writer’s Guild determines who gets final credit.
According to various sources, Randolph Fillmore was a volunteer who worked with an archaeologist named Dr Vendyl Jones in 1977.
Dr. Jones agreed to help Fillmore with the script on two conditions. First, it couldn’t be set in Israel, and second, Fillmore wouldn’t use his name.
So, Fillmore set the story in Egypt and changed Dr. Jones’ name from “Vendyl Jones” to “Endy Jones” – which later became “Indiana Jones”.
Dr. Vendyl Jones was one of the leaders of the Noahide movement, made up of non-Jews who observe the seven laws of Noah.
As a teacher, he published a book in 1959 predicting the precise outbreak of the Six Day War and was the only non-Jewish American (Texan) to serve in combat during the Six Day War in 1967.
The Ark of the Covenant is considered the container of the Ten Commandments given to Moses at Mount Sinai.
According to the Bible, the Ark measures 2.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits (62.5 inches by 37.5 inches by 37.5 inches), which is precisely identical in size to the chamber of the king in the Great Pyramid in Egypt.
Dr Jones requested permission from the Israeli government to search for the Ark which he said was hidden in a secret passageway (placed there just before the destruction of the First Temple) under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
He maintained that the passage is a tunnel that stretches 18 miles to the south and that the Ark was then brought through the tunnel to its current resting place in the Judean Desert.
With the help of an ancient document found at Qumran, Dr. Jones was convinced that he knew the location of the Ark.
In the copper scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the first five lines read: “In the desolation of the valley of Ashur, in the opening under the rise, which is a mountain facing east, covered with forty rocks placed – here is a tabernacle and all the golden lights.”
Dr. Jones believed this was the key to finding the Ark.
After stepping on a group of rocks in this exact spot several times, Dr. Jones suddenly realized that the huge boulders did not come from the mountain – they must have been brought from somewhere else.
He planned to drill a borehole and drop a pin camera in the chamber below. All he needed was permission from the Israeli government.
“Israel is a lot like heaven,” Dr. Jones proclaimed, “forgiveness is much easier to get than permission.”
Sadly, Dr. Vendyl Jones passed away on December 27, 2010.
The location of the Ark of the Covenant remains a mystery.
If such an important religious artifact is ever to be discovered, it will likely happen when it is supposed to.
May the Force be with you — oops, that’s a different movie.
Quote of the day – “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” IndianaJones
Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and an imaginary girlfriend named Tequila Mockingbird.