As an archeologist, Indiana Jones' behavior was unimpressive. Artifacts were broken, library floors unceremoniously smashed, and nary a scientific journal was in sight. But, is there an alternate explanation for his frankly egregious professional conduct?
After reading this post declaring the famously-behatted professor to be a looter, not unlike the villains he fights, commenter Darth Meow 504 suggested an alternate interpretation: Indiana Jones is not really a bad archeologist, it's just that we only see him at his unconventional second job.
There's a key difference being glossed over here: that Indiana Jones is never once shown profiting from what he acquires. Yes he gets his missions funded, but he never sells anything and he doesn't have an even remotely extravagant lifestyle. He lives on his professor's salary, and he only works for museums and similar institutions. His whole conflict with Belloq is over profiteering. Yes they're both looters, both tomb raiders, but Belloq sells what he gets to the highest bidder and Indy gives it to museums. Indy decries Belloq as a mercenary, while Belloq calls Indy naive and idealistic to the point of foolishness.
And it's the existence of men like Belloq that inform Indy's own existence. Looting and treasure hunting was rampant in those days, and Indy was a man with their skillset working for the good guys. He was a professor of archeology who worked as a freelance treasure hunter, nobody (including him) claimed that what he did on his adventures was proper archeology. It however can be strongly argued that it was necessary, to get the artifacts for the academic world before they ended up on the black market instead.
In fact, Indy's form of treasure hunting was quite beneficial to proper scientific archeology in more ways than simply acquiring treasures for museums before the black marketeers could. Indy focused on valuables, gold and jewels and treasures that would be the target of men like Belloq and left everything else behind. Once Indy was done with a site, having emptied it of the items that would interest treasure hunters, it lost appeal to those treasure hunters. Full archeological crews could then move in and get to the business of real excavation and study without worrying about competing interests from treasure seekers. He went in first, secured the valuables, and when he was done the mercenaries would no longer have any interest in a site and the scientists could then move in unimpeded.
Yes Indy was a cowboy adventurer looter seeking treasure, but he was a white hat one working for the good guys.
For our part, while we suppose it's possible that Indy's off-screen hours were solely occupied in painstaking research and careful reconstruction of the broken library floors left in his wake, it's a little hard to imagine that his second job didn't creep into his archeology career at all.
What do you say? Is Indiana Jones a looter or an archeologist with a rather unconventional second job? Make your case in the comments.