Collections[ edit ] Trade in fake pre-Columbian artifacts developed during the late 19th century to the extent that in , Smithsonian archaeologist William Henry Holmes wrote an article called "The Trade in Spurious Mexican Antiquities" for Science.
Research[ edit ] Many crystal skulls are claimed to be pre-Columbian , usually attributed to the Aztec or Maya civilizations. Mesoamerican art has numerous representations of skulls, but none of the skulls in museum collections come from documented excavations. The study concluded that the skulls were crafted in the 19th century in Germany, quite likely at workshops in the town of Idar-Oberstein , which was renowned for crafting objects made from imported Brazilian quartz in the late 19th century.
In , the Smithsonian Institution investigated a crystal skull provided by an anonymous source; the source claimed to have purchased it in Mexico City in , and that it was of Aztec origin. The investigation concluded that this skull also was made recently. According to the Smithsonian, Boban acquired his crystal skulls from sources in Germany, aligning with conclusions made by the British Museum.
The Smithsonian specimen had been worked with a different abrasive, namely the silicon-carbon compound carborundum Silicon carbide which is a synthetic substance manufactured using modern industrial techniques.
A parallel example is provided by obsidian mirrors , ritual objects widely depicted in Aztec art. Although a few surviving obsidian mirrors come from archaeological excavations,  none of the Aztec-style obsidian mirrors are so documented. Yet most authorities on Aztec material culture consider the Aztec-style obsidian mirrors as authentic pre-Columbian objects.
Smith reports a non peer-reviewed find of a small crystal skull at an Aztec site in the Valley of Mexico. Curators and scholars refer to these as "Olmec-style", as to date no example has been recovered in an archaeologically controlled Olmec context, although they appear Olmec in style.
However they have been recovered from sites of other cultures, including one deliberately deposited in the ceremonial precinct of Tenochtitlan Mexico City , which would presumably have been about 2, years old when the Aztecs buried it, suggesting these were as valued and collected as Roman antiquities were in Europe.
It is the subject of a video documentary made in , Crystal Skull of Lubaantun. Mitchell-Hedges himself made no mention of the alleged discovery in any of his writings on Lubaantun.
Others present at the time of the excavation recorded neither the skull's discovery nor Anna's presence at the dig. Mitchell-Hedges in London on October 15, Shortly thereafter, he discussed the purchase in a letter to his brother.
The lower jaw is detached. In the early s it came under the temporary care of freelance art restorer Frank Dorland, who claimed upon inspecting it that it had been "carved" with total disregard to the natural crystal axis, and without the use of metal tools. Dorland reported being unable to find any tell-tale scratch marks, except for traces of mechanical grinding on the teeth, and he speculated that it was first chiseled into rough form, probably using diamonds, and the finer shaping, grinding and polishing was achieved through the use of sand over a period of to years.
He said it could be up to 12, years old. Garvin made arrangements for the skull to be examined at Hewlett-Packard's crystal laboratories in Santa Clara, California, where it was subjected to several tests.
The labs determined only that it was not a composite as Dorland had supposed, but that it was fashioned from a single crystal of quartz. Sydney Burney , a London art dealer who is said to have owned it since There is documentary evidence that Mitchell-Hedges bought it from Burney in Mitchell-Hedges mentioned the skull only briefly in the first edition of his autobiography, Danger My Ally , without specifying where or by whom it was found.
It is said that when he willed death with the help of the skull, death invariably followed". Anna Mitchell-Hedges toured with the skull from exhibiting it on a pay-per-view basis.
She continued to grant interviews about the artifact until her death. She died on April 11, Since that time the Mitchell-Hedges Skull has been owned by Homann. He continues to believe in its mystical properties.
Homann took the skull to the museum again in so it could be filmed for a Smithsonian Networks documentary, Legend of the Crystal Skull and on this occasion Walsh was able to take two sets of silicone molds of surface tool marks for scanning electron microscope SEM analysis.
The SEM micrographs revealed evidence that the crystal had been worked with a high speed, hard metal rotary tool coated with a hard abrasive such as diamond. Walsh's extensive research on artifacts from Mexico and Central America showed that pre-contact artisans carved stone by abrading the surface with stone or wooden tools and in later pre-Columbian times, copper tools, in combination with a variety of abrasive sands or pulverized stone.
These examinations led Walsh to the conclusion that the skull was probably carved in the s, and was most likely based on the British Museum skull which had been exhibited fairly continuously from According to Nusse, the resulting face had female and European characteristics. As it was hypothesized that the Crystal Skull was a replica of an actual human skull, the conclusion was that it could not have been created by ancient Americans.
Its origin was not stated in his catalogue of the time. He is said to have tried to sell it to Mexico's national museum as an Aztec artifact, but was unsuccessful. After a series of analyses carried out over three months, C2RMF engineers concluded that it was "certainly not pre-Columbian, it shows traces of polishing and abrasion by modern tools.
Scanning electron microscopy SEM analysis indicated the use of lapidary machine tools in its carving. The results of a new dating technique known as quartz hydration dating QHD demonstrated that the Paris skull had been carved later than a reference quartz specimen artifact, known to have been cut in The researchers conclude that the SEM and QHD results combined with the skull's known provenance indicate it was carved in the 18th or 19th century.
A in the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History , was mailed to the Smithsonian Institution anonymously in , and was claimed to be an Aztec object by its donor and was purportedly from the collection of Porfirio Diaz. It was carved using carborundum , a modern abrasive. It has been displayed as a modern fake at the National Museum of Natural History.
Anna Mitchell-Hedges claimed that the skull she allegedly discovered could cause visions, cure cancer , that she once used its magical properties to kill a man, and that in another instance, she saw in it a premonition of the John F. Interviewees included Richard Hoagland , who attempted to link the skulls and the Maya to life on Mars, and David Hatcher Childress , proponent of lost Atlantean civilizations and anti-gravity claims.
Crystal skulls are also referred to by author Drunvalo Melchizedek in his book Serpent of Light. The alleged associations and origins of crystal skull mythology in Native American spiritual lore, as advanced by neoshamanic writers such as Jamie Sams, are similarly discounted. Mitchell-Hedges, and then afterwards taken up: By the s, the crystal skulls [had] entered New Age mythology as potent relics of ancient Atlantis, and they even acquired a canonical number: None of this would have anything to do with North American Indian matters, if the skulls had not attracted the attention of some of the most active New Age writers.
Crystal skulls in popular culture Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull , the 4th installment in the action-adventure franchise, revolves around a fictional back-story about crystal skulls, specifically mentioning the Mitchell-Hedges skull.
Stargate SG-1 season 3 , Episode 21 revolves around a crystal skull found on an alien planet, and an associated skull that seems to borrow details from the Mitchell-Hedges skull, other than the discoverer. In the show it was reportedly found by Daniel Jackson's grandfather, Nick Ballard. Jake Long , The first half of the second season revolves around finding the 13 Aztec crystal skulls, which hold the power to grant 1 irreversible wish to the person that holds the 13th skull, after the other 12 are placed in the Gargoyles of Pantheon.
A Crystal Skull appears as a Treasure Demon a class of enemies based on valuable objects in the video game Persona 5.