The Truth About The Real Life Explorer Who Inspired Indiana Jones

The 1980s franchise "Indiana Jones," which chronicled the life of a fictional professor moonlighting as an explorer, has enthralled audiences for decades on end. The franchise itself spans five full-length films (via Rotten Tomatoes), a television series (via IMDb), books by various authors under multiple different publishers, not to mention a myriad of video games (via Screen Rant) and toy sets. At Walt Disney's theme parks, thrill-seekers can set their sights on Indiana Jones-inspired stunt shows and roller coasters (via Disney World).

This larger-than-life franchise has had such an immense impact on pop culture that it's hard to imagine that one man inspired all these fantastical adventures. Still, there is a real-life Indiana Jones, a man who mapped the Amazon and trekked through dense jungle territory in search of lost cities that perhaps never were (via History). He was a lieutenant, a colonel, a spy, a machete-wielding wilderness man whose obsession with adventure would lead him down a dark and winding path, from which he would vanish from sight forever.

Percy Fawcett, famed explorer that mysteriously vanished

According to History, a man by the name of Percy Fawcett was the inspiration for Indiana Jones. Fawcett was not your typical rogue adventure buff trekking through uncharted territory, relying on instinct or a thirst for fortune. If nothing else, this explorer was every bit a "classic gentleman explorer" trained in the art of espionage under the mentorship of the Royal Geographic Society of London (via History Extra).

Through multiple death-defying expeditions, Percy Fawcett and his crew managed to map out much of the Amazon, which he fondly referred to as "the last great blank space in the world." Fittingly, this great blank space would become the last place he was ever seen alive.

Fawcett's life truly did feature danger at each turn, complete with poison arrows, venomous snakes, swooping bats, and biting piranhas. Some of the authors who penned his story were his personal companions. It was Fawcett's obsession with uncovering a lost world, a sophisticated ancient civilization which he referred to only as Z, that would ultimately lead to his mysterious disappearance and is still missing today. Theories abound as to what happened to the complex archeological explorer who went on to inspire some of the most riveting stories of our time.