In Raiders of the Lost Ark, while the Ark is sitting inside a crate in the ship's hold we are shown that the crate mysteriously starts to burn, obscuring the swastika and other markings stenciled on its side.

Presumably it's the Ark itself that is doing this, since no one is around at the time.

crate being burned

Why does the Ark burn the crate? It evidently doesn't hinder the Germans finding it when they intercept the cargo ship shortly thereafter. The Ark's crate appears to be the only thing in the cargo hold.

crate by itself in the cargo hold

crate with the lettering burned


2 Answers 2


There is no commentary from the film-makers (that I can find) that covers this specific burning crate subject but it seems evident that it's...

..because the Ark refuses to be marked by evil which is represented by the Nazi markings.

Nazi symbols take quite a beating or are mocked a lot in the movie and this is just another example...albeit with more visceral impact.

Others include...

  • A Nazi flag is used as a rope

  • Indy breaks off the Nazi hood ornament of the car (IIRC)

  • A monkey gives a Nazi salute

  • But it also burns off the US Army markings when it is stored away in the warehouse at the end. I don't think Spielberg would quite consider them "evil." Misguided, maybe. Nov 13, 2017 at 23:25
  • 6
    There is no such scene
    – Paulie_D
    Nov 13, 2017 at 23:29
  • Paulie_D's comment is in reference to @ScottyParker's comment, about the ark burning off US Army markings (which never happens in the movie). Nov 16, 2017 at 0:12
  • Yeah. It's in the working script, but did not make it into the final cut. Nov 16, 2017 at 0:32
  • If you have evidence of that...please present it.
    – Paulie_D
    Nov 16, 2017 at 7:40

Mere mortals aren't meant to possess the Ark as a weapon. It is to be revered, feared and obeyed.

Spielberg doesn't do director's commentary, so I'm looking for references from interviews that might support that angle.

  • This isn't really an answer - can you provide some more detailed analysis or supporting references for this?
    – iandotkelly
    Nov 13, 2017 at 22:04
  • 1
    Actually, the very purpose of the Ark was to be possessed by mere mortals. It was created to hold the Commandments.
    – user25738
    Nov 13, 2017 at 22:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .