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Philip Boyes

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FeatureWhere do monsters come from?

Tracking the leviathan, from Ugarit to Final Fantasy.

Where do monsters come from? Popular culture has a voracious appetite for monsters, and games perhaps more than anything else. We fight them in their hordes, summon them, collect them and befriend them. With each new release, we need more monsters, distinctive but still familiar enough that we can comprehend them and relate to them. Where do they all come from?

Archaeology doesn't get a very good treatment in popular media, and games are no different. The public image of archaeologists is dominated by pulp fantasy heroes, swinging and scrambling their way through trap-infested ancient ruins, one hand clutching a priceless treasure, the other punching a Nazi in the face. Of course, pulp heroics make for much more entertaining movies and games than Indiana Jones and the Afternoon of Context Sheets or Newly-Qualified Archaeology Student Lara Croft Spends Four Years Trying to Get a Stable Job. Even archaeologists grasp this, for all our protestations. Like lapsed Catholics who can't quite give up their patron saint, many of the archaeologists I've known would admit to Indiana Jones being a bit of a guilty role model. While writing this piece I tried to find a photo of my hard hat from my days as a field archaeologist, a promotional sticker from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull emblazoned across the back, but sadly, all record of this sartorial triumph seems lost.