#4. Daniel Jackson (Stargate series)
An archaeologist's job is to learn from the civilizations who built ancient relics. Daniel Jackson has an actual portal to that civilization, and he's still less helpful for learning about the past than a bottle of absinthe to the head. Granted the civilization he's studying happen to be bloodthirsty slavers out to murder him, but the peace-loving pygmies of the Pa'ci'fist forest would attack Daniel on sight just to make sure he didn't destroy every historical record of their existence.
He also graduated from the world's only joint Ancient Cultures/Phys Ed program
The closest Stargate comes to real archaeology is resurrecting a relic from the ancient "80s period" by bringing back MacGuyver. And just like all sci-fi military resurrection experiments, it creates an evil opposite: instead of using ordinary objects to create non-lethal weapons, Colonel O'Neill (MacGuyver) uses lethal weapons to destroy extraordinary objects. And he's just part of the anti-precious items squad Jackson leads to the galaxy's most incredible finds. All together, the team put more priceless relics in danger than 57 Jackie Chans going undercover as the Smithsonian museum security detail.
His other archaeological assistants are Teal'C, a giant soldier whose first act was to use a walking stick to blow up an ancient building, and Carter, a brilliant scientist from the University Of Science Means Setting Things To Overload.
Not one incredibly world-changing relic has survived more than 30 minutes exposure to Jackson and Co.'s anti-archaeology field. He'd do less damage to history if he threw an atomic warhead into a DeLorean, since that would only blow things up once.
#3. Professor Hershel Layton (Professor Layton series)
The first problem is that Professor Layton can't so much as check his watch without taking 20 minutes to solve it. Faced with an actual mystery based on a forgotten people, the only place he'd be able to write his results is in the cold ashes of the heat death of the universe.
Ah, a bus timetable! Luke, fetch my supercomputer and five different colors of pen!
WARNING: NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS.
The second is that any conclusion he reached would be laughed out as ludicrous by Scientologist Birthers. So far his "mysteries" have been revealed to be an entire town of clockwork robots, a group hallucination the size and population of Transylvania, and an entire fake London built in a giant cave below London. Even one of Layton's "discoveries" would have Benjamin Gates calling bullshit, and he's legally forbidden from using that word.
On the plus side? Professor Layton beats National Treasure in pulse-pounding action.
#2. Everyone (The Mummy series)
In The Mummy, the movie-archaeologists jobs of knowing things andkilling things" are split between two characters: Brendan Fraser took care of the action, back in the brief period when he could headline a movie, and Evelyn Carnahan takes care the academic training, in that "she can read." And she'll screw even this elementary skill up so bad it kills people.
She's clearly not comfortable with the responsibility.
They steal the Book of the Dead from an accredited academic who has it in the first place to prevent idiots meddling with it -- he's essentially what Benjamin Gates wants to be: a treasure protector. However in The Mummy, our protagonists promptly ignore his desperate warnings, making this the first archaeologist movie that doesn't even try to hide the fact that you're accidentally cheering for the bad guys. The ancient evil is unleashed when Evelyn reads aloud from the book in the City of the Dead in the dead of the night, which works exactly as well as you'd expect. She wasn't even trying to summon something good, or researching, she was just reading the book to see what it said. Yes, this does mean that the nightmarish murder-thing's killing spree of plagues is all because the good guys' "smart" character can't read with her mouth closed.
She's clearly not comfortable with the responsibility.
#1. Lara Croft
Lara Croft has made a career out of bringing horny 12-year-old boys and guns into ancient ruins -- the two worst things to bring into a tomb outside of fire and corpse solvent. Her defining features were created by mistake in 1996, when a programming error gave her character model 150 percent extra chestage and before the coder could fix it a marketing executive dive-tackled him screaming, "STOP HIM THIS IS A BESTSELLER NOW!"
... thus giving birth to the now common origami fetish.
Creating new objects through accidental use of modern technology vs. recovering old ones made through dedicated old technology = exact opposite of archaeology.
However, this article isn't about her flaws as a character, but as an archaeologist, a profession that game designers gave her because muddy-brown textures are easy to draw, jumping puzzles are easy to design and wild animals are way easier to program than real enemies. Wait, her enemies are animals? We suppose turning modern species into relics by rendering them extinct sort of counts as archaeology.
And this counts as a dialogue on race relations.
To give you an idea of Croft's archaeology chops, the Wikipedia plot summary of her movies contain sentences such as "Since the device resembles a clock, Croft consults a clock expert," and "the Cradle of Life is in a valley where its forests are filled with shadow monsters." But her most baffling decision is having to leap across deadly spaces, and constantly make do without any of the normal tools any of the other archaeologists on this list seem to carry around with them. Why doesn't she have a grappling hook, or at least a whip to help swing across the gaping chasms? Because where the hell is she going to store that?
She's already got these two ... guns.
You can learn about more people who are bad at their jobs in our new book.