Edgar James Banks
Edgar James Banks. American diplomat, antiquarian and novelist. Banks was an antiquities enthusiast and entrepreneurial roving archaeologist in the closing days of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, who has been held up as an original for the fictional composite figure of Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones
Colonel Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, Jr., Ph.D. is a fictional character and the protagonist of the Indiana Jones franchise. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg created the character in homage to the action heroes of 1930s film serials...

. Starting from his position as American consul in Baghdad in 1898, Banks bought hundreds of cuneiform tablets on the market in the closing days of the Ottoman Empire and re-sold them in small batches to museums, libraries, universities, and theological seminaries, several in Utah and the American Southwest and across the United States. These tablets had been dug up by locals at sites like Telloh and the many other tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

s of central Mesopotamia. Banks purchased many more cuneiform inscriptions from a dealer in Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

. The Ottoman government did not regulate the trade in such minor antiquities.

Though he had been funded for an expedition to the site of Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

, Banks was foiled by the Ottoman administration, who would not permit digs at Babylon or Tell Ibrahim, other prominent sites. In 1903 it was decided that his excavations were to be at Bismya, the site of ancient Adab, in Iraq. His 1912 publication about his excavations at Bismya/Bismaya (Adab
Adab or Udab was an ancient Sumerian city between Telloh and Nippur. It was located at the site of modern Bismaya or Bismya in the Wasit Governorate of Iraq.-History:...

), the Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ian city now in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, contains some lively accounts of his struggles with the Ottoman bureaucracy (see link below).

In 1909 Banks became a professor of Oriental languages and archaeology at the University of Toledo
University of Toledo
The University of Toledo is a public university in Toledo, Ohio, United States. The Carnegie Foundation classified the university as "Doctoral/Research Extensive."-National recognition:...

. After World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Banks travelled and lectured extensively, scattering his cuneiform tablets among purchasers wherever he went. Tablets Banks sold to Charles W. Ames are now in the Science Museum at the University of Minnesota and many other private and public sites in the U.S.

Banks is credited with the sale of an ancient cuneiform tablet of great mathematical importance to the New York publisher George Arthur Plimpton
George Arthur Plimpton
George Arthur Plimpton was an American publisher and philanthropist.Plimpton was born in Walpole, Massachusetts, the son and grandson of iron manufacturers. He graduated from the Phillips Exeter Academy in 1873 and Amherst College in 1876...

. The artifact, reportedly purchased for $10, was housed in Plimpton's private collection before being donated to Columbia University upon Plimpton's death. The artifact, now famously known as Plimpton 322
Plimpton 322
Plimpton 322 is a Babylonian clay tablet, notable as containing an example of Babylonian mathematics. It has number 322 in the G.A. Plimpton Collection at Columbia University...

 (denoting that it is the 322nd item in the catalog), has provided great insight into the Babylonian era math. Although debate over how to interpret this artifact continues, the artifact is usually taken to display knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem, long before the birth of Pythagoras himself.

Edgar Banks also started two movie companies, and climbed Mount Ararat
Mount Ararat
Mount Ararat is a snow-capped, dormant volcanic cone in Turkey. It has two peaks: Greater Ararat and Lesser Ararat .The Ararat massif is about in diameter...

 in a search for Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

. Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil Blount DeMille was an American film director and Academy Award-winning film producer in both silent and sound films. He was renowned for the flamboyance and showmanship of his movies...

 apparently invited Banks to become a consultant on bible epics in 1921.

Banks was an active lecturer and author. It was during such a lecturing trip in 1921 that he discovered Eustis
Eustis, Florida
Eustis is a city in Lake County, Florida, United States. The population was 15,106 at the 2000 census. The Census Bureau estimated the population in 2008 to be 19,129. It is part of the Orlando–Kissimmee Metropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:...

 and decided to retire there.

He died in Eustis, Florida, in 1945 at the age of 79.

The Eustis Historical Museum
Clifford House (Eustis, Florida)
The Clifford House is a historic home in Eustis, Florida, United States. It is located at 536 North Bay Street. On April 4, 1975, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It was owned by G.D. Clifford, an early settler and local merchandiser.Built in 1910, the...

features one room with exhibits about Banks.

External links

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