greg.org: the making of: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Dendur:
G -- He is an archeologist and an anthropologist. A Ph.D. He's a doctor, he's a college professor. What happened is, he's also a sort of rough and tumble guy. But he got involved in going in and getting antiquities. Sort of searching out antiquities. And it became a very lucrative profession so he, rather than be an archeologist, he became sort of an outlaw archeologist. He really started being a grave robber., for hire, is what it really came down to. And the museums would hire him to steal things out of tombs and stuff. Or locate them. In the archeology circles he knows everybody, so he's sort of like a private detective grave robber. A museum will give him an assignment... A bounty hunter.
S -- If there were these Arabs who just discovered some great king's tomb, and you see the tomb being taken out. And there are about twenty five or thirty Arabs heavily armed, and like five trucks and you realize... there's this one guy who's all painted, and he's one of the pall bearers who slips a thing into the back of the truck, gets behind the wheel and as the caravan is going to turn right, this one thing goes left. And the rest chase him, but he gets away.
G -- The thing is, if there is an object of antiquity, that a museum knows about that may be missing, or they know it's somewhere, he can go like an archeologist, but it's like rather than doing research, he goes in to get the gold. He doesn't really go to find cheap artifacts, he goes to gather stuff. And the other thing is, if something was taken from a tomb, stolen and sort of in the underground, sometimes they may send him out to get it. Essentially he's a bounty hunter. He's a bounty hunter of antiquities is what it comes down to.
If a museum says that there is this famous vase that we know exists, it was in this tomb at this time. It may still be there, but we doubt it. We think maybe it's on the underground market, or in a private collection. We'd like to have it. Actually it belongs to us. We're the National Museum of Cairo or something. He says okay and tracks it down.
If its not in the thing, he finds it, finds out who's got it. And he swipes it back. A lot of times it's sort of legal. All he has to do is get it. It's not like he steals things from collectors, and then gives them to other collectors. What he does is steal things from private collectors who have them illegally, and gives them back to the national museums and stuff. Or, being that his morality isn't all that good, he will go into the actual grave and steal it out of the country and give it to the museum. It's sort of a quasi-ethical side of that whole thing. The museum does commission somebody to go into the pyramids and you know, whatever they find, sort of get out without the Egyptian government knowing, because they were in the process of turmoil and nobody's going to know anyway and there's not going to be any official protest, so just do it...