The diminutive Indiana Jones

Indian Jones. If ever there were a character that epitomized American ruggedness it’s this Archeology professor at Bennet College (the institution that employs Dr. Henry Jones). He is a “thinking man’s” hero with a bullwhip that has, to date, taken on the Nazis (twice), the Soviets and an Indian cult with an unsavory child-labor practice. Each one hell-bent on world rule, and each one snuffed-out by the virile man in the leather jacket and fedora.

He is handsome. He is intelligent. He is the strong. He is resilient. He is self-reliant. His toughness could go toe-to-toe with any interior lineman in football.

He is also short. And I’m not talking shorter than average. I’m talking short-short. If you need proof, you’ll find it in Raiders of the Lost Ark. And if you have a DVD or Blue Ray of the movie, you can follow along.

Before I explain, let me just say that I am a huge fan of The Indiana Jones movie franchise, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford. So, if you’re reading this, Harrison or Steven, forgive me.

In Chapter 14 of the movie, Indy and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) are at the old man’s place – the old man being the person they’ve asked to decipher the markings on the headpiece to the Staff of Ra. If you recall, the headpiece caps a staff that is to be used in the Tanis map room that will eventually pinpoint the location of the Well of the Souls, where the Ark of the Covenant is buried.

Now, if you can remember, the headpiece that the Nazis have only has markings on one side as it had to be replicated from burn markings Toht’s hand when he grabbed the heated hunk of metal in Marion Ravenwood’s burning bar in Nepal.

Indy asks the old man if Belloq (Paul Freeman), the film’s main villain and Nazi mercenary, got the height of the staff off the headpiece, to which the old man says yes and then explains how high the staff should be. The following is the critical conversation (at about 48:25 of the movie) explaining the height:

Old Man: “This were the old way, this mean six kadam high.”
Sallah: “About 72 inches.”
Old Man: “Wait! And take back one kadam to honor the Hebrew God whose Ark this is.”

So, six kadam is about 72 inches – or six feet. Therefore, one kadam equals about one foot. And if they are to “take back one kadam”, then staff should only be five kadam high – or about 5 feet high. And if you remember from the movie, it is here that they realize that Belloq’s staff is too high and the Nazis are “digging in the wrong place.”

Next, go to Chapter 16, when Indy finally gets inside the Tanis map room. After finding the slot where the staff is to be set, he caps it with the headpiece. Stop the movie at 53:58. There is a full-length shot of our hero next to the staff. Notice how he is at least 12 inches shorter than the staff, even if you don’t account for the height of the headpiece itself, as well as the height of the headwear worn by Dr. Jones.


That means Indiana Jones is, at best, about four feet tall! He’s most likely even shorter than that.

Now, according to Mr. Ford’s page, he is officially listed at 6’-1” (or about 6 and 1/12 kadam). And the height of the staff relative to the main character was merely a decision for visual enhancement.

But isn’t it kinda nice think that this larger-than-life movie hero might have been quite small in physical stature? Maybe size doesn’t really matter. That is, unless you’re an interior lineman.

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