Adult Indiana Jones - Archaeologist Camp
Rachel in Lehi, UT USA
August 2008 Winner
My husband's birthday was coming up, and he mentioned that he'd loved Indiana Jones as a kid. So I took that theme and ran with because the fourth movie was coming out the same week as his birthday. There wasn't much online for this theme at the time, except for one awesome site called questexperiences.com, where I found a lot of great ideas and incorporated them into my own plans. We actually threw this same party again soon afterward with some improvements, so I'll try to explain a combo of both.
INVITATIONS: The fun started when each guest received a personalized letter, dated April 29 1941 and addressed to Doctor So & So, a fellow archaeologist, explaining that I'd been heading up a field team in Guatemala searching for the tomb of a legendary Mayan prince and that we'd found it. I told them that the prince had been buried with a priceless jade burial mask, which we'd promised to donate to the Smithsonian museum in exchange for funding the dig. I invited each of them to come see the tomb for themselves and witness the opening of the prince's sarcophagus and the extraction of the jade mask. I told them the date and time, said we'd be providing a sampling of local cuisine, and told them not to bring any children with them because local tribes were always on the lookout for victims for their sacrificial rituals. I also said that we'd invited Dr. Indiana Jones to be our forerunning explorer and pave our way through various ancient boobie traps, and that we could now guarantee their safety with 78% certainty! At the bottom they were told that they could come in costume if they wanted. Enclosed with the letter was a fake news article I'd made on the computer about the discovery of the tomb, including photos from an actual tomb and dig site, then printed on newspaper-looking paper. I even researched other events that took place in 1941 and created a newspaper page of real events to print on the back of the tomb article. Also enclosed was a map of Guatemala with my neighborhood streets superimposed over it to give directions to my house, and a fake plane ticket for each person, all mailed out in a manila envelope.
DECORATIONS: Waaay too many details to cover everything, but basically I set up our living room to look like an archaeologist base camp. We moved out all our furniture and set up a canopy. In one corner sat a couple of old trunks topped by a washbasin and pitcher with an antique looking stand up face mirror and small glass bottles I'd created labels for like Gold Bond powder, tooth powder, etc. and filled with flour or powdered sugar. Another corner had bedrolls, canteens, other survival gear. Near our fireplace was the cook pit with a dutch oven, antique kettle, mess kits, etc. To one side was a research desk with old books, maps of Central America, candles, etc. Found lots of great items at thrift stores for this. Opposite that was the food table. We have a piano that we didn't want to move so I covered it with a dyed gray table cloth to look like a Mayan temple, using big diaper boxes taped together to make more steps where the piano bench would be, and I painted another diaper box to look like the top of a temple and set it on top, then we used the temple for a game.
We decorated our basement as the prince's tomb. I hung rafia as vines from the ceiling of the stairwell that leads down there, and placed skull staffs from Halloween to one side and stuck poison tipped darts (tips of wood skewers) in the opposite wall to look like they'd shot out of the skulls. In the basement sat the sarcophagus (an old wooden hope chest painted with Mayan glyphs), and the walls were decorated with butcher paper strips painted with glyphs and the mayan calendar drawn on a big gold tablecloth I found at Deseret Industries. I'd also found several cool vases and spray painted them gold to be artifacts set around the sarcophagus. (In the second version of the party, we used butcher paper hung over ropes to create a maze leading into the sarcophagus area)
FOOD: We served some Guatemalan specialties, like empanadas, roast quetzal bird (fried chicken bites), chips and salsa, horchata and fruit sorbets that come in a fruit shell at Costco. Then in the tradition of Temple of Doom, I also found edible bugs and brains online at Oriental Trading Company. I also served a banana slush punch with floating eyeballs in it from a party store.
ACTIVITIES: As guests arrived, they were each given a name tag with one of three symbols on it (parchment paper hung around their neck with twine) on which they could write their character name. We had an Indiana Jones movie trivia sheet near the entrance, and they could win a prize for answering them all right. The piano temple" was used for priest races. I'd painted six goofy mayan priest faces on squares of wood and glued pieces of wood on the backs so they'd stand up and given each one a name and number like "Chaac-o-lot" "Shaman Noodle" and just for kicks "Kevin". Everyone would bet on one then we'd roll two dice and which ever numbers were rolled those two priests would move up one step until one reached the top. Those who'd bet on the winner got a prize. We used chocolate gold coins for prizes.
Another game was "Jaguar Hunting" where they threw darts at pictures of jaguars I'd printed from the internet and drawn targets onto and stuck them on a cork bulletin board. While all of these games were going on I'd announce periodic Tomb Tours and take guest through the tomb explaining all of the booby traps and a history of the prince. My character was the curator of a local Mayan museum so I had a thick Nacho Libre style spanish accent. (My husband got to be Indiana Jones of course.) As each group gathered for the tour I pulled out a sketch of a certain artifact and asked if any of them had seen it in their digs. I told them that if they found it I would be willing to make a trade for it so that I could have it in my museum.
Once everyone had taken the tour played some games and had some food I announced that it was time to open the sarcophagus. Everyone gathered into the tomb and I made a little presentation thanking my dig team and such. I had a couple of guys remove the lid pretending it was stone heavy and inside there was a fake skeleton but the jade mask was missing! (In the second version there were three jade masks instead of one and if the wrong one was removed the person would be struck dead. I'd made masks out of salt dough and painted them a metallic green then used a crackle finish on them). I had my father pretend to be a professor of ancient languages who read the glyphs on the wall to tell us that the mayans had hidden the mask from grave robbers and we had to follow clues to find it. I had the guests assemble into three groups according to the symbol on their name tags then handed each team a booklet of "research notes" similar to the Grail Diary in Last Crusade which contained each team's first clue.
They were also given a gold medallion (I'd made them from salt dough and spray painted them gold) to help them and rubbing materials (tissue paper and crayons). Each team then cycled through six puzzle sites. At each site was a piece of a tablet they had to get a rubbing of then assemble their rubbings into the full picture (I'd made the tablet from sheetrock plaster and drawn a mayan calendar and some glyphs into it before it dried). Once assembled it could be taken to the professor for translation to tell them where the mask was (or which was the correct mask). I don't know if I have enough space left to describe each site I'll be brief… For one I hung a picture of five different mayan deities on five different doors.
There was a bowl with five different colored rocks or "gems" and the team was given clues to figure out which gem must be offered to which god and once all stones were placed correctly the journal told them which door to open and inside was the artifact that I'd been asking about during the tour. They'd bring me the artifact and offer to trade it for information about the mask. I agreed and had my assistant pour them all drinks which end up being poison and they had to give me the artifact in exchange for the antidote. I told them I'd still help them if they could solve a riddle for me involving a colleague who'd disappeared in the jungle and they had to help me figure out which village he'd gone to. The next site was a Map Room like in Raiders of the Lost Ark. There was a large map on the floor I'd painted onto several foam core boards with mayan numerals along the sides and several bamboo staffs to the side each numbered as well. They solve another riddle to figure out which staff to place at which number on the map then place their gold medallion on top of the staff.
The medallions had wooden posts through the middle wrapped with red string which they'd unravel and pull taught to the ground and where the string landed that's where they'd go next (simulating the light beam shining through the gem in Raiders). Next was a sign post with 15 pointed wood signs labeled with mayan cities. They were given clues in the journal to deduce which was the prince's favorite city to do commerce with and the journal contained an answer list of "if your answer is this go here. If this go here." Next was a long string of jumbled letters I'd printed in a large font cut out and taped to skewers and stuck in the ground. They had to count off the letters by a certain multiple to figure out a message leading to the next site. The last site was a grid of mayan numbers printed on a large piece of craft paper on a table.
Each number had a symbol next to it and on the walls were several strips of paper with math problems each with a corresponding symbol on it. They had to move a small obsidian statue square by square along the grid to the other end by solving the math problem with the symbol that matched the square they were on. The answer to the problem was the next square they jumped to. Once the reached the other end they'd find the final symbol on a map in the journal and go where that symbol was. It all took months of work but since the guests were adults I didn't want it to be too easy! Each team required help from my dig team at one point or another but that was fine. It was fun to see some of the guests really get into it. The winning team got a bag of candy.
Everyone had a great time!"