- "The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army which carries the Ark before it is invincible."
- ―Marcus Brody[src]
- "The Ark. If it is there at Tanis, then it is something that man was not meant to disturb. Death has always surrounded it. It is not of this Earth."
- ―Sallah to Indiana Jones of the Ark[src]
After the Ten Commandments were smashed by Moses, the pieces were collected in the Ark of the Covenant, a gold-gilded wooden chest constructed under instruction from God and carried before the Hebrews on their march towards the Promised Land.
When the Hebrews settled in Canaan, they placed the Ark in the Temple of Solomon where it stayed until around 980 BC when the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak raided the Temple and took the Ark with him to the city of Tanis. Following a series of dreams in which he was visited by Osiris urging him to hide it from the eyes of the sun god Amun-Ra, Shishak had the Ark placed inside the Well of the Souls. A Map Room was built so that only Ra could know the Ark's whereabouts but a year later the Israelites' god saw to it that Tanis itself was buried in a sandstorm.
Adolf Hitler became interested in acquiring the Ark in order to achieve world domination. In 1936, when US agents Colonel Musgrove and Major Eaton discovered this, they sent Indiana Jones on a mission to find the Ark before the Nazis. Though he did find the Ark first, it was later stolen by Nazis nonetheless.
The Ark changed hands between Indy and the Nazis several times before the Nazis took the Ark to a secret island base near Crete. After René Emile Belloq performed a Hebrew ritual, the Ark was opened. Inside was sand, all that was left of the Ten Commandments.
Ghostly apparitions emerged from within and swarmed playfully about the Nazis before adopting a more sinister tone; the spirits transformed their appearances from angelic beings into monstrous demons. Lightning burst through the soldiers and their souls were taken to be judged, then fire shot the cover into the sky before it fell back onto the Ark. Indy, witnessing energy beginning to come out of the Ark, realized what was about to happen. Warning Marion Ravenwood, they closed their eyes and looked away from the Ark, and were thus spared from the deity's anger.
However, instead of giving the Ark to the museum, the U.S. government took possession of it. Jones and Brody were told by Major Eaton that it was to be studied by higher authorities, although it was simply nailed inside a wooden box numbered 9906753 and placed inside a gigantic warehouse among hundreds of similar crates.
In 1957, Jones was taken to the warehouse when captured by Soviets looking for another crate, 9906573. The box containing the Ark was broken during the subsequent action, but the preoccupied Jones did not notice it.
Behind the scenesEdit
Though the Ark is described in the Bible, some elements of the Ark were altered in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark. For example, Brody's statement that "the Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions" is only partially accurate (when it was captured by the Philistines it "laid waste" to their "region" via bubonic plague), though the Bible does state the Ark had supernatural powers. Plus the Ark is supposed to have the second set of the Ten Commandments written in it, which are whole, not the first broken pair. Although a Rabbinic tradition states that Moses also put the broken fragments of the first tablets of the Law into the Ark.
The punishment of death upon Belloq and the Nazis for disturbing the Ark is inspired by a Bible reference in 1 Samuel 6:19 when 70 people of Beth-Shemesh were struck down because they looked into the Ark.
Also, the Bible relates a command by King Josiah of Judah in 2 Chronicles 35:3 for the Levites to "Put the sacred ark in the temple that Solomon built". Since King Josiah reigned from 640 - 609 BC, and the Bible mentions the Ark as being present in Jerusalem during his reign over three hundred years after Shishak's invasion, the Tanis theory is actually, in real life, false.
The actual fate of the Ark, if the artifact exists, continues to elude archaeologists. The city of Tanis is one of many locations where it is theorized the Ark may lie, although the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Ethiopia claims to have the true Ark safely kept in the Chapel of the Tablet. The Ark's guardian, and only he, is allowed to see it.
The design of the prop Ark used in the film was based on artwork by the nineteenth century painter James Tissot.
- The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles – "Jerusalem, June 1909" (Mentioned only) (Cancelled)
- The Day of Destiny (Mentioned only)
- The Secret Treaty (Mentioned only)
- The Rule of Russia (Mentioned only)
- Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx (Mentioned only)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark novel (First appearance)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark junior novel
- Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Image on wall)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade novel (Mentioned only)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade junior novel (Mentioned only)
- Indiana Jones and the Golden Fleece (Mentioned only)
- Indiana Jones and the Pyramid of the Sorcerer (Mentioned only)
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull novel
- LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (Non-canonical appearance)
- LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues (Non-canonical appearance)
- Grail Diary
- The World of Indiana Jones
- Raiders of the Lost Ark Sourcebook
- Close Encounters of the Random Kind (Ambiguously canonical source)
- Indiana Jones and the Lands of Adventure
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Sourcebook
- Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide
- The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones
- Indiana Jones: The Official Magazine 3
- "The Ark of the Covenant" – Indiana Jones: The Official Magazine 4
- Ark of the Covenant on Wikipedia
- TheBibleProject.com's image of Tissot's "The Ark of the Covenant"
- TheBibleProject.com: Tissot illustration "The Ark Passes Over The Jordan"
- TheBibleProject.com: Tissot illustration "The Seven Trumpets of Jericho" (Featuring the Ark)
- Smithsonian.com article: "Keepers of the Lost Ark?" (Ethiopian claim to Ark)