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Appraiser of Indiana Jones’ Lost Ark says it’s worth $120,000

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PBS’ Antiques Roadshow says face-melting MacGuffin could easily get more at auction

image from the conclusion of 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark in which the pipe smoking bureaucrat explains to Indiana Jones that top men are studying the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark of the Covenant’s original appraisal. A 1936 study conducted by top men could not determine a value.
Image: Lucasfilm/Paramount Pictures

Well, there you have it. The Ark of the Covenant, believed to have spent the past 83 years in government storage after it was excavated by a Marshall College professor of archaeology, has been appraised by PBS’ Antiques Roadshow.

James Supp of Coronado Trading Co., Tucson, Arizona and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, estimates the one-of-a-kind religious artifact, used to transport the Ten Commandments, would fetch between $80,000 and $120,000 at auction. Supp called that “a very conservative estimate.” With any army carrying the Ark before it believed to be invincible, many foreign governments would be interested in acquiring it.

“Wow,” said the unnamed private citizen now in custody of the Ark, which has been called “a radio for talking to God,” and capable of laying waste to entire regions. “Not bad for hot glue and spray paint.”

The Ark was brought by a private citizen to Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum for an Antiques Roadshow event last May. The Ark’s unnamed owner says his father, an engineer for Industrial Light and Magic of Marin County, California, acquired it sometime in the early 1980s. Importantly, it does not contain the remnants of the Ten Commandments; the current owner says it was used to store blankets.

The Ark was believed to have been looted from the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem in 980 BCE by the invading army of the Egyptian pharoah Shishak. Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. returned with it following a dig outside Cairo in 1936. Jones’ discovery was only revealed 45 years later in the 1981 documentary Raiders of the Lost Ark, whose filmmakers posited that the United States government secretly took custody of the Ark and kept it in a vast storage facility.

Despite being one of the most important artifacts to the Abrahamic faiths, the Ark was never placed on public display, possibly owing to the questioned nature of its acquisition. A competing German expedition briefly claimed ownership of it, but its leader, Dr. Rene Belloq of France, mysteriously vanished. He was last seen on a remote island near Crete.