Breaking Bread with Indiana Jones

Have you at any time in your life fantasized about hunting for antiquities like they did in Indiana Jones or even Jewel of the Nile? I sure did and I was certain that I’d make a great detective/adventurer. I’d visit exotic places and learn about their cultures. Honestly, I really didn’t care about the treasures as much as I yearned to visit the places and solve the mystery surrounding the artifact in question.

So, imagine my delight when I went to visit my dad last year and got to meet a real Indiana Jones, though admittedly there was not nearly as much danger…but there was a lot of adventure and excitement.

It all started over lunch when we went to eat in the dining room of the retirement home where my dad lived. I was introduced to his table companion of the last several years, Robert Dyson. Now Robert is a quiet gentleman and his sight is quite poor. In fact, he can only make out shapes and colors…no details. I have found that people in their latest years of life do enjoy talking about themselves and Robert was no exception, despite his shyness.

So when I asked what he did before moving to this fancy joint, he replied that he was an archaeologist. Of course my first thought was Indiana Jones and adventure…and TREASURES! I teasingly asked if he ever had any adventures or found any treasures and was surprised when he admitted to being famous for discovering a gold ceremonial bowl in Iran. He told me Life Magazine had a whole crew out and did a magazine article on it.  (I confirmed this later when I went home and found the archived article from 1959…complete with magnificent pictures.  Go ahead…take a peek. The Secrets of a Golden Bowl. At the end of the article you will find a young Robert Dyson holding up the bowl. I found the paragraph above the photo particularly interesting.)

But wait, there is more to this story. Now Robert knew he had my complete interest and he looks up from his bowl of soup and says with a twinkle in his eye, “I was friends with Agatha Christie and she named one of the characters in her books after me.” I tried my best to act normal but he could hear the excitement in my voice. Inside, my mind was screaming WOW…WOW…WOW! How cool is this guy? But…I had to have proof. So when I went back to find out about the Life Magazine article, I also checked on the Agatha Christie connection. I know I should be more trusting of what old men say but there is this part of me which refuses to write about something if I haven’t checked it out…just like the news. And I knew I was going to write about this!

This link shows the name Lucky Dyson (a female character) listed in the second paragraph of the plot summary of A Carribean Mystery, published in 1964. As for the actual friendship connection, that was a bit harder. Christie’s second husband, Max Mallowan was also an archaeologist from Britain and they worked at the same dig site for several years. There are too many articles about the dig site to show you documentation so you are going to have to trust me on this point…the guy is legit. According to Agatha Christie’s official site she frequently spent time at digs and would even help her husband occasionally.

What Robert didn’t share and I discovered during my own research were his more humble accolades which are expressed in an article, A Digger Bows Out With A Fanfare – Archaeologist Robert Dyson Is Retiring As Head of the University Museum, a fantastic article full of adventure and high praise.

It was my honor to share two more meals with such a wonderful person and validates my theory that you can learn a lot by giving an old person a few minutes of your time.