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Crystal Skulls Mystery – Misunderstanding or Hoax?

by Shelly Barclay

The crystal skulls are a number of supposed artifacts that are kept by collectors and museums around the world. People claim that they are items used in sacrificial temples or that they’re supernatural tools of murder. What they really are may be much simpler.

A skull from the British Museum in 2013. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

A skull from the British Museum in 2013. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Are they Really Pre-Columbian Artifacts?

The typical claims regarding these skulls pertain to their origins. It is said that they are Mayan or Aztec artifacts. Some even say that they date back even farther. More specifically, proponents of the supernatural claims say that the Mitchell-Hedges Skull was brought here by aliens, held in Atlantis, used by the Knights Templar during the Crusades and somehow wound up in a Pre-Columbian temple in Belize by the early 1900s. Supernatural claims include spontaneous healing, holographic premonitions and the ability to kill the enemies of the owner from a distance.

There are a number of small crystal skulls, but those that get the most attention are life-sized or nearly life-sized crystals skulls. Of these, four are the most famous. None of them is actually made of crystal. They are made of quartz, which, when polished and carved correctly, look like crystal.

The Paris Skull

The Paris Skull is a crystal skull that was owned by antique dealer Eugene Boban. It was eventually sold by Boban and now resides in the Musee de Quai Branly in Paris. It is 4 inches in height. Unlike the other skulls on this list, it has a hole drilled vertically through the center of it. Because of this, it is often assumed that it was once displayed on some sort of staff.

Crystal skulls at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris. 2008. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Crystal skull at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris. 2008. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Experts have concluded, based on tool markings on the skull, that it was created in the 1800s with modern tools. The museum asserts that it is not of Pre-Columbian origins. Who made it and why is still a mystery, but once the first few skulls made the rounds, it became obvious they were moneymakers. Selling and displaying them can turn a profit, so it is highly likely that many of the skulls were hoaxes made simply for money. The question is, what about the first ones?

The Smithsonian Skull

The Smithsonian Skull is kept in the National Museum of Natural History. They received it from an anonymous benefactor in 1992. It is the largest of the crystal skulls, weighing in at more than 30 pounds. Experts have drawn essentially the same conclusions as with the Paris Skull and for similar reasons. Like the Musee de Quai Branly, the National Museum of Natural History states that the skull is definitely a fake.

Quartz skull at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Source: Smithsonian Magazine, Cheryl Carlin.

Quartz skull at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Source: Smithsonian Magazine, Cheryl Carlin.

The British Museum Skull

The British Museum Skull was owned by Eugene Boban, like the Paris Skull. He sold the skull to George Sisson and it was later purchased by Tiffany & Company, which sold it to the British Museum. It has been in the museum’s possession since 1897. Therefore, there has been ample opportunity to study the skull.

British Museum crystal skull. Source: Public Domain Pictures.

The British Museum Skull has a detached mandible, unlike the above skulls. The museum has concluded that the skull was made in Europe, probably Germany, in the 19th century. It has no discernible supernatural powers. The museum has several skulls. Testing concluded the quartz could only be found in Brazil and Madagascar. Given that Aztecs and Mayans would have had access to neither.

The Mitchell-Hedges Skull

Perhaps the most famous of the crystal skull is the so-called Mitchell-Hedges skull. Its fame likely comes from the claims of its owners. Purportedly, aliens brought the skull to Earth, where it remained in Atlantis and, later, the Knights Templar carried it. Also, supposedly Mayans kept it in a temple where priests could use it to cause death, hence its nickname The Skull of Doom.

Anna Mitchell-Hedges with her skull. Source: The Greater Picture.

Anna Mitchell-Hedges with her skull. Source: The Greater Picture.

Anna Mitchell-Hedges, the previous and first well-known owner of the skull reportedly claimed that she had willed a man to die using the skull. She also said that she saw a vision of J.F.Ks assassination, delivered by the skull. She says she found it, along with her stepfather, in a Mayan ruin in Belize. The Mitchell-Hedges website also says that the skull has properties only possible with zero gravity During her lifetime, Anna made money off selling tickets to see the skull, giving her a good reason to create and perpetuate myths, but that is not all.

The Sealand Skull

Anna Mitchell-Hedges was notoriously stubborn about letting people study the skull. There have been very few investigations of the skull. One researcher, an art restorer, said that the skull would have taken 150 to 300 years by chipping away at quartz and then rubbing it with sand to create the details. He said that it is certainly very old, but how he is qualified to come to that conclusion is uncertain. The first researcher never said anything about supernatural properties or an odd temperature, but there are claims that it maintains a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Archaeologists Comment on the Skull

Archaeologist Norman Hammond said that someone used metal tools to drill holes that attach the mandible to the skull. This would have been an impossible feat for Pre-Columbian tribes. Anna would not allow more testing on the skull, though she continued to assert its properties and charge people to see it.

Interestingly, there is evidence that Sydney Burney owned the skull. Mitchell-Hedges also corroborates this. Annas’ father purchased the skull from Sydney’s son in a 1944 Sothebys auction. Anna says that her father loaned the skull to Sydney, who cheated him by putting it up for sale. To retrieve the skull, Mitchell-Hedges purchased it. Now, under close scrutiny, this makes no sense.

  • Any archaeologist would have a record of a skull they had for more than a decade. Mitchell-Hedges would have recorded its discovery and probably photographed it. This would have been enough evidence for the police to do an investigation into the ownership of the skull.
  • Anna said that Sothebys refused to stop the sale, so her father had to buy the item. This would not have stopped a police investigation. Mitchell-Hedges pursued nothing. He just paid the money and took the skull, like any other buyer would have done.
  • Burney’s son denies that it belonged to Mitchell-Hedges. Of course, a thief would deny it, but with everything else, it seems like Burney was telling the truth.
  • Neither Anna nor her father said or published anything about the crystal skull until after the auction. If they had it before then, why did they not flout the properties they claimed it had until after they supposedly got it back.

Today, Annas widower owns the Mitchell-Hedges skull. He, like his dead wife, refuses to let experts study the skull.

Unverified Crystal Skulls

The truth behind the crystal skulls is that none has been verified as Mayan, Aztec, supernatural or anything other than skulls crafted from quartz with modern tools. There is no way of knowing which skulls were the first or why they were made, so there is still a possibility that there are Pre-Columbian, of which artists have made replicas. Of course, there is also no way of knowing if the first skulls were hoaxes that prompted forgeries, either.


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